In A Greener More Energy Efficient Tomorrow What About Performance?
An Electric GT-R? Really? Carlos Tavares, recently promoted to COO of Renault, hinted at as much at the 2011 New York auto show. “Of course, it’s going to be zero emissions.”
The Electric GTR — Because your kids, my kids, they will very soon select their car from a short list of zero-emissions vehicles.That’s going to happen very soon-my kids or the kids of my kids at the latest. So it’s going to be zero emissions….going to be connected and plus plus plus in safety, comfort, and entertainment.” Of course, zero emissions can be achieved without going full electric, but Nissan has already set a couple of precedents. The Leaf is currently the only electric car available in the U.S. by a major automotive manufacturer, and the company’s follow-up wasn’t a crossover or MPV. Nissan took the Leaf racing, with the Nismo Leaf RC. “Well, the GT-R is going to have, of course, a different balance of those attributes. But you have here the Nismo Leaf RC, which is, of course, a racing car. But it’s a racing car to make a statement that there is nothing contradictory between an EV power source and the pleasure of driving fast-in a racing car in this case.” Electric GT-R? You heard it here first…
PORSCHE: EMBRACING HYBRID TECHNOLOGY
Of all the sports car makers, Porsche has been the first to openly embrace hybrid technology. It’s been only with the company’s two best-selling (and least-sporty) models, the Cayenne SUV and Panamera sedan, but, according Dr. Michael Steiner, director of the Panamera product line, that should change. “From our point of view, hybrid technology could help provide some additional performance. We are also thinking of additional downsizing. If you look at the 911 Turbo, it is an example of engine downsizing. We only have six cylinders, turbocharged, and we have the power of competitors’ V-8 engines. In the future, we are also thinking about having a four-cylinder engine, but only if it can provide a strong level of performance. There is no decision made yet. There could be a hybrid version [of the 911] in 10 years. Most likely we will give the customer the choice between a traditional high-performance car or a hybrid car. It will depend on the market situation, on tax regulations and things like that, which car will be the faster one.” How far into the product line will Stuttgart apply hybrid technology? If the company’s $845,000 918 Spyder hybrid is any indication, all the way to the very top.
Porsche’s mid-engine hybrid supercar will be driven by a plug-in powertrain composed of a 500-plus-horsepower V-8 and twin front- and rear-axle-mounted electric motors producing approximately 160 kW (218 horsepower). The 918 will be primarily rear drive, via a compact seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, but the electric motor placements offer variable all-wheel drive. Powering the motors is a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery that can be charged from a wall socket and deliver a range of approximately 16 miles of electric-only driving.
1. Front hybrid drive computer
2. Electric motor
3. Lithium-ion battery
4. 500-hp V-8 engine
5. Seven-speed dual-clutch (PDK) transaxle
6. Electric motor
7. Rear hybrid drive computer
SUBARU: UNVEILING THE NEW DUO
Two significant projects fill Subaru’s highly anticipated performance docket, and the first is a rendition of the Toyota/Scion FR-S rear-drive sport coupe. Like the Scion, the coupe’s compact dimensions and sumptuous design are undoubtedly athletic and modern. But while its form may evoke a notion of triple-digit speeds, it is the nimbleness of the car’s lightweight chassis that engineers are most enthused to highlight. A low-lying, nearly mid-belly-placed 2.0-liter boxer with direct and port fuel-injection technology borrowed from Toyota should ensure a lively character matched with superior fuel efficiency. Drivers will be able to select six gears from a manual or paddle-actuated automatic gearbox.
Subaru Tecnica International (STI) is currently beefing up an STI model based on the new 2012 Impreza and soon-to-be released WRX. Expect to see a more muscular physique with wide shoulders and hindquarters. Handling benefits from a broader track, a heavily revised suspension, and an aggressively returned all-wheel-drive system. Brakes will definitely be upsized, as will the forged wheels. Both will help cope with the 300-plus-horsepower output from what we believe will be a turbocharged 2.5-liter derived from the new FB20-engine series. When it hits dealers sometime late next year, you can bet it will be the most powerful STI sedan ever, and likely the most efficient.
TESLA: STILL JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE
What will be the key performance-enabling technologies of the next decade?
Vehicles are going to need to deliver on both performance, efficiency and cleanliness — high performance, zero emissions. The most important technology improvements will be related to electrical energy storage. It will allow increased vehicle range and decreased vehicle mass and cost. Ultimately, it will allow cheaper operating costs per mile for a wide set of vehicle types. Power electronics and software controls are improving quickly. Those advances will allow for increasingly impressive driving experience and torque responsiveness. What will Tesla’s flagship sports car be like 10 years from now?
Far better! The model S motor packs twice the continuous power of the Roadster’s, is about the same size package, and was developed in only three years. We are still just scratching the surface with the capabilities of an electric powertrain. It is not bound by the mechanical constraints of a combustion engine — the possibilities are scary. Also, the relatively compact and efficient design of electric motors allow for much increased packaging options. -J.B. Straubel, Tesla Motors Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer
TOYOTA:THE PERFORMANCE SCION
You’ve probably already seen the sexy FR-S an unabashed play on the famed ’80s-era Corolla GT-S code named AE-86. The FR-S ticks many of the archetypal sports car boxes. The drive wheels are at the rear, and a six-speed transmission is under hand. The bodywork is a pleasant sight to behold, especially when placed alongside current Toyotas. A finely balanced chassis promises agile handling, helped by an ambitious low weight target and special engine selection. Sitting up front is a tidily packaged, 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder sourced from Subaru, and mounted as close to the ground as feasibly possible and pushed deeply toward the vehicle’s middle to optimize the coupe’s center of gravity and polar moment of inertia. The naturally aspirated boxer is also fitted with Toyota’s D4-S fuel-injection system, which combines port and direct injection to optimize fuel burn. The lightweight Scion is expected to not only dance in the curves, but achieve impressive efficiency as well. With federal fuel economy and emissions police always around the corner, the FR-S’ timing couldn’t be better.
A FUTURE ACCORDING TO MAXIMUM BOB
What will be the key performance-enabling technologies of the next decade?
It’ll continue to be the internal-combustion engine, driven to further perfection thanks to modern electronics, and a new generation of fuel-injection systems. There’s probably another 20- to 25-percent fuel-economy gain to be wrung from the internal-combustion engine. But certainly, it’ll no longer be done via ever more cubic inches, because that’s really a wasteful approach. The modern high-performance engine will become much smaller, almost like racing formulas, with turbocharging, twin turbocharging, or supercharging. A lot of the performance mid-range and low-end torque may well wind up enabled by batteries and torque assistance, for fuel economy and performance. So, the idea of an ultra-performance hybrid car, maybe even plug-in, with say eight to 10 gasoline-free miles in town and the rest of the time the electric drive system serving to enhance torque, is a very credible proposition. Two generations from now, it’s entirely conceivable that a Corvette — not a GM plan, this is just purely hypothetical on my part — would be a direct-injection, stratified charge, twin-stage turbo-boosted two-liter, four-cylinder engine developing 800 horsepower.
What will Lotus be like 10 years from now?
Lotus will continue to be a very small producer. Ten years from now, I would hope for 12,000 to 14,000 cars per year, six to seven times what they’re doing today. It would be all five models. But as word gets out and people see that these new Lotuses still keep the promise of what a Lotus is all about, which is this supreme handling, man-machine relationship and this fantastic agility…you are not going to believe what it’s like to drive an Evora. I was expecting good, but I wasn’t expecting that. The chassis is beyond anything you’ve ever experienced. And without harshness. As Jack Keebler says, it’s like you’re driving with a skyhook.
Design your own Lotus for 10 years from now considering social and government constraints.
I would probably have a 16-killowatt lithium-ion battery and a plug-in and electric-drive capability for eight to 10 miles, but also be able to use that battery for torque generation. And the car that I would do would probably be mid-engine, a little smaller than today’s Corvette, batteries down the central tunnel, and the prime mover, other than the electric drive, would probably be a twin-turbo V-6 of around 450 horsepower. And the body out of carbon fiber.
Is the V-8 dead?
I think it’s definitely moribund. Absolutely. Everything is moving to smaller engines and smaller numbers of cylinders. This new generation of Malibu will not be offered with a V-6. In cars that had both sixes and fours, the six is being kicked out, and everybody is emphasizing the smaller engine.
We had 75 years of Communism in China, where we raised generations of kids who never heard the sound of a decent engine. And yet, the minute the shackles are off, the Chinese youth are performance-car crazy. So I think it’s an innate part of the human being, you could argue especially males, that we love high-performance automobiles. And if they can’t buy them when they’re young, they buy them when they’re old. -Bob Lutz, former vice chairman, General Motors, member of advisory board, Lotus Cars
BY THE NUMBERS: WE LOOK BACK TO SEE WHAT’S AHEAD
Even performance cars like the 911 and Corvette have weighed over a ton and a half for 30 years. That these cars will fall to an even ton in 10 years seems unlikely. We examined data from the past 20 years for the 911 Carrera 2, base Corvette, Mustang GT, Miata, and M3 and plotted power, weight and the resulting power to weight ratios. We then used that data to project where these cars would be 10 years from now with no outside intervention. While the projected weights of Mustangs, Miatas, and M3s seem unlikely, the numbers for the 911 and Corvette are almost believable. Likely the most believable of these graphs is pounds to horsepower. How we get there is another story.
WEIGHT: While the 911 and Corvette seem to have leveled out in weight, BMW continues to increase size and weight of the M3. It is unlikely that the M3 will ever reach the nearly 4100 projected pounds, but some of that will depend on the ever-inflating size of what was once the small Bimmer.
HORSEPOWER: Although it’s claimed the power war is over, the numbers say otherwise. Another battle is being fought on the emissions and efficiency fronts, as well as with government regulators. Future tech will allow smaller gas engines to be supplemented by electric motors. The Corvette may easily reach 533 hp and 40 mpg using a 350-horsepower forced-induction engine and a 183-horsepower electric motor.
POWER-TO-WEIGHT RATIO: While the Miata’s power seems to have plateaued, we’d like to think that weight will start dropping substantially and decrease the pound/horsepower ratio. The Corvette is projected to reach 5 pound/horsepower by 2016, squarely where the ZR1 sits in 2011. Porsche can currently add more than 200 horses with a 250-pound KERS system, and the technology is still evolving.
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