2019 Frankfurt Motor Show Archive

  • Mercedes-Benz on electrification – full CO2 neutrality by 2039, road to zero emissions will be market-specific

    Electrification was one of the big buzzwords at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, with almost every carmaker present revealing a new electric vehicle or concept car. Not least of which was Mercedes-Benz – the company revealed its luxurious Vision EQS concept and promised to be fully carbon neutral by 2039, with its production sites in Europe set to be the first to reach that milestone by 2022.

    Twenty years seems like a very long time to achieve zero emissions across the company, and the boss at Stuttgart, Ola Källenius, explained that the large demand for passenger cars around the world – and the lack of infrastructure for electric power and other renewable energy sources – would make it very difficult for it to wean itself off petrol and diesel immediately.

    “Today, the world market for light vehicles or passenger cars is somewhere between 85 and 90 million vehicles per year. Looking at how heterogeneous the infrastructure is around the world, if you want to replace that quickly with 100% fully electric vehicles or perhaps fuel cells, that would be an enormous industrial undertaking. So on the product side, depending on regulations and how the different markets develop, this will be a journey that will probably take at least 20 years,” he said.

    Källenius understands that not every market is ready to go electric at the moment, which is part of the reason why complete carbon neutrality is still so far away. “But one thing is key – we all realise that we need to get to CO2 neutrality, so that’s the direction that we’ll have to take. But it will be a heterogeneous journey and not the same journey at every country at the same speed.”

    While that’s going on, the company can work on other aspects of the organisation first. “On the things that we can influence and do quicker now, such as our own production – where we’re replacing fossil-based energy production with renewable-based electricity and so on – we have decided to move as quickly as we can. We’re starting with our own production facilities here in Europe and we are evaluating our international production sites as we speak,” Källenius said.

    The executive kept mum on the specifics of the company’s carbon neutral strategy, as there are so many alternative fuels being developed at the moment. “If you look at the technologies that are in the pipeline now, we have the battery electric vehicles, there’s the fuel cell for commercial vehicles and larger vehicles, and there’s even the dark horse of synthetic fuels, combined with grown biofuels from algae and so on.

    “For the next 10 years, we have a relatively clear strategy – on passenger cars, we’re going electric, on commercial vehicles [there will be] a combination of electric and perhaps fuel cell, and then we’ll see what happens with synthetic fuels. But I don’t want to say exactly what’s going to happen in 20 years’ time – engineers have so much creativity and ingenuity that probably if we meet here in 20 years’ time we’d be surprised at what has happened!” he said.

    One thing’s for certain – Mercedes (or indeed its parent company Daimler) will not diversify into the energy business anytime soon. “We will still get you from A to B in style, we’re not planning on vertical integration and becoming an energy company. We will cooperate with energy companies to define a roadmap to sustainable modern luxury, which is our brand promise. But we will focus on what we know best.”

    On the subject of its near-term product strategy, Källenius said that electrification will lead to a consolidation of the current lineup as part of the company-wide transformation – one that does not just mean the discontinuation of models and body styles, but powertrain options as well. “With the launch of the EQ family of new cars, obviously we’re adding some to the portfolio. But we have a simple rule: don’t add another model or niche just for the sake of it – it has to make economical sense,” he said.

    Källenius adds that while government incentives for electrified vehicles is welcome, it will also need to provide products that are genuinely compelling to consumers. “It’s true that some of the electric [uptake] we are talking about is regulation-driven, and you can throw regulatory incentives that will greatly change consumer behaviour,” he said. “But what we’re seeing now, especially with the launch of a whole range of electric vehicles from Mercedes, that if you have the right product, you will create the pull factor as well.”

    One of the ways to create that pull factor is to bring its Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Maybach sub-brands into the world of electrification, and the latter will be showing a new SUV model next month. “We have been unbelievably successful with AMG and have also been growing the Mercedes-Maybach brand. We have some ideas there, and you shall see more of that coming later this year, stay tuned.”

     
     
  • W223 Mercedes-Benz S-Class first certified Level 3 self-driving car, “we’ll compete, cooperate with BMW”

    As the automotive industry moves towards the future of autonomous driving, carmakers are having to find new and creative ways to stay ahead and survive. At a roundtable discussion at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, Daimler chairman and Mercedes-Benz head Ola Källenius shared some of the challenges Stuttgart is facing, and what its collaboration with previously sworn arch rival BMW will bring to the table.

    The pressures of developing viable autonomous driving technologies, compounded by the trade war between the United States and China, is making life difficult for many companies. “This is probably the most exciting time, and at the same time the most challenging time for the automotive industry. On top of that, geopolitical and trade tensions are not welcome for any industry, and certainly not for a global car industry.

    “That throws an additional spice into this dish here; if I could not have that spice, I would rather have preferred that. But it is what it is, and we have to deal with the situation. I’ve been in this industry now for 26 years, and I have never seen a time with as much uncertainty, but also as much opportunity as we have now. That is why it’s fun to be in the car industry, but not an industry for weak nerves,” he said.

    Källenius adds that even though autonomous driving technology is expensive to develop, it could provide a substantial benefit in the long run. “Autonomous drive, even though it’s of course a high investment to crack that very sophisticated technical problem, is, as a potential game changer, an interesting future profit pool – but with some uncertainty related to it. If and when that nut gets cracked, that’s an opportunity,” he said.

    He did admit, however, that the aforementioned high investment is forcing the company to reevaluate its costs and find ways to improve its efficiency as an organisation. “We have a very high level of investment intensity at the moment. It feels like we’re doing two or three things at the same time, whereas you had only one thing before. We have to be very, very careful about our cost structures and seek efficiencies.”

    For now, the company is pushing forward with the development of its own semi-autonomous driving technology, and it plans to fit the next S-Class – set to be unveiled sometime next year – with the first certified Level 3 system. Although the latest Audi A8 debuted with such a system first, Källenius said the new luxury sedan will be the first one to get regulatory approval by the authorities.

    “We’re in a constant dialogue with the regulators – it’s almost as if they’re writing the rules while we’re developing, because we’re breaking new ground,” he said, adding that even without regulation, the company would regulate itself to ensure the safety of its users.

    “With or without regulation, the key is safety first. It is a very, very sophisticated technical problem. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years interacting with our engineering teams on this. You open a door, you find three new doors. So, even if there was no regulation, we would self-regulate ourselves to make sure that we do it in a thoughtful way.”

    Looking over the horizon, the company is now working with BMW on future autonomous driving technology, expanding on a collaboration originally meant to combine their respective mobility services into a single entity large enough to be sustainable. Sacrilege, you say? Not according to Källenius, who said that the cooperation makes sense if you look at it properly.

    “It’s such an enormous investment to further develop this technology,” he said. “We have two very competent engineering teams that happen to live 200 to 300 km apart and speak the same language, trying to solve the same problem. In a very pragmatic way we said, if we team up here, actually both parties gain – we split the bill and we gain momentum through having more engineers on the issue.”

    Källenius reassured fans of the brand that whatever happens, the company will ensure its products will maintain the brand’s DNA. “I think this may be a sign of the new level of openness in the automotive industry, and I do believe that you can compete and cooperate at the same time.”

     
     
  • “Our cars are not smartphones, we design them to last” – Mercedes-Benz boss Ola Källenius on tech

    The interior of the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQS

    These are exciting times for the automotive industry, as advances in in-car technology are poised to revolutionise the car as we see it today. Mercedes-Benz is among those leading the charge, and in a roundtable discussion at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, Daimler chairman Ola Källenius has revealed some of the company’s key ideas, as well as the challenges it will face over the coming years.

    The 50-year-old Swede recounted the first time the carmaker participated in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, previously the reserve of tech companies. “The very first time we went there, I think it was in 2008, people were asking themselves, “What is a carmaker doing here?”

    “When I went to the CES at the beginning of this year, it felt like there were more cars than other devices! And the tech companies used cars to demonstrate their technology.” he said, referring to the high-profile showcases from tech giants like Nvidia, which roped in carmakers for the show.

    The reason for this, according to Källenius, is that the opportunities for the integration of technology into vehicles have opened up. “Way back when, the car was a mechanical island. Today, it’s the ultimate mobile device. It really is a smartphone on wheels,” he said, adding that the arrival of 5G connectivity will only hasten the development of in-car tech.

    We can already hear the luddites thinking, “But I replace my smartphone every year or two, I can’t replace my car every year!” To which Källenius replied that while a car of today may have the technology of a smartphone, it has been developed in a completely different way to make it durable and, hence, last longer.

    “Needless to say the engineering target of a vehicle is very much different from, let’s say, the engineering target of a smartphone or some other electrical device, so we have to design it for longevity,” he said. As for the growing level of electrification in cars these days, Källenius said that an electric motor can “more or less go on forever”, with battery deterioration over time posing more of a challenge.

    “Maybe there will be, at some point, some kind of backwards compatibility or new batteries in our vehicles,” he said. “It’s still early days. But we do design our vehicles and the electrical parts for longevity.”

    Another concern users have these days is data privacy. Companies like Facebook and Google have gotten into hot soup recently over their alleged sharing of personal information to third parties for monetary gain, and while Källenius didn’t rule out Daimler potentially benefitting from the use of their own owners’ data, he said that at the end of the day, the company must serve the customer first.

    To do this, the company is being transparent by allowing users to opt in and out of individual services as they see fit. “Most apps have one very long terms and conditions that most people don’t read and then they click, and they don’t know what they did,” he said. “With our Mercedes me services, we allow you to choose what you want, at the individual service level.”

    Källenius adds that while Daimler could still make money through your data, it will only do so if it provides a meaningful benefit to you. “If we can offer you a use case that you want and that is beneficial to you, and at the same time it could be a business case for us, that’s what we’re pursuing.”

    Mercedes is also in the midst of digitalising its sales and marketing processes in order to improve the buying experience and reduce costs. “You will still have offline [sales], but you will have an even more seamless online-to-offline experience.” he said.

    Källenius added that the company is trialling new ways for buyers to purchase their cars, following in the footsteps of Tesla’s strategy of selling directly to consumers. “Actually, in my home country in Sweden, we’re experimenting with a direct sales model, with fixed pricing, where the customer actually buys directly from the manufacturer, and the dealer acts as an agent.

     
     
  • GALLERY: W177 Mercedes-AMG A45S, C118 CLA45S

    When Mercedes-AMG announced it was jumping head-first into the market of hot hatches, we were a little bit sceptical. I mean, this was a company renown for making snorting, powersliding V8 versions of cushy cruisers, so what business were they doing tuning front-wheel drive family hatchbacks?

    Fast forward to today, and not only has the Mercedes-AMG A 45 become a respectable card-carrying member of the Affalterbach family, it has also spawned full range of 45-badged compact cars, including the CLA 45 four-door coupé. And now, both of these cars have been renewed with even greater performance, and we bring you live photos straight from the recent Frankfurt Motor Show.

    So let’s get straight to the meat and potatoes, the engine. Displacing the same 2.0 litres as the A 250‘s M260 turbo four-cylinder, the new M139 – which replaces the old M133 – is nevertheless a completely different animal. Firstly, the block has been rotated 180 degrees to place the intake at the front and the exhaust and twin-scroll turbocharger at the rear, for shorter routing and fewer diversions on both ends.

    Digging further into the engine, you’ll also find both port and direct fuel injection, along with an aluminium crankcase, a forged steel crankshaft and aluminium pistons, Nanoslide-coated cylinders, oil sump baffles and larger exhaust valves. There’s also an electric water pump for better cooling, as well as integrated engine coolant and gearbox oil cooling and a heat exchanger on the new eight-speed dual clutch transmission.

    So equipped, the new A 45 and CLA 45 deliver 387 hp and 480 Nm of torque, enough to get them from zero to 100 km/h in 4.0 seconds for the former and 4.1 seconds for the latter. But wait, there’s more – both models get a new S version that cranks up the boost from 1.9 bar to 2.1 bar and adds a second radiator, raising outputs to a heady 421 hp and 500 Nm of torque. This shaves a tenth off their respective sprint times, with the A 45 S in particular dipping under the four-second mark, at 3.9 seconds.

    Linked to the AMG Speedshift DCT 8G gearbox is the AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive system, with the plus symbol referring to the new addition of AMG Torque Control. Adding a twin clutch pack on the rear axle means that the system can not only vary the torque distribution between the front and rear axles, but side-to-side on the rear axle as well – giving the cars real torque vectoring.

    But the pièce de résistance is the AMG Dynamic Plus Package which, when specced (it’s standard on the S), adds a new Drift Mode that will allow you to pull lurid powerslides, as well larger front brakes with six-piston callipers (instead of four). The chassis is reinforced with an aluminium plate under the engine, front strut tower bracing and additional plates around the front. The AMG Ride Control dampers are optional.

    Both the A 45 and CLA 45 get an assortment of aerodynamic addenda, including more aggressive front ends that add the Panamericana slatted grille, huge air intakes and a front wing inspired by jet planes. The front fenders have also been blistered to house the wider front tracks, while the rear ends get sizeable diffusers that integrate the quad round tailpipes.

    The cars you see here are Edition 1 cars and are equipped with the optional AMG Aerodynamic package, throwing on a front splitter and flics, an even more ornate diffuser, large rear spoilers and shrouds for the (fake) rear air vents. Both display units sit on black 19-inch alloy wheels – the A 45 S rolls on five-twin-spoke rollers, while the CLS 45 S receives intricate cross-spoke items.

    Inside, the A 45 and CLA 45 get sports seats, AMG-specific displays for the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) and some additional screens for things such as temperatures, lap times and g-forces. The S models here have the beefier AMG Performance steering wheel (with integrated controls for drive modes, suspension and transmission) and yellow highlights, plus the optional AMG Performance seats.

    GALLERY: W177 Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+


    GALLERY: C118 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S 4Matic+

     
     
  • Mercedes-AMG A45 engine to be used in larger models

    With up to 421 hp and 500 Nm of torque from just 2.0 litres of displacement, the new M139 turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the latest Mercedes-AMG A 45 and CLA 45 is an impressive piece of engineering. But having spent so much time and effort to extract these headline figures, surely it would be a waste to confine it to Stuttgart’s smallest models, wouldn’t it?

    Apparently Affalterbach feels the same way. Speaking to us at the Frankfurt Motor Show, AMG boss Tobias Moers confirmed that the engine won’t be limited to transverse applications. “The reason [why it makes so much power] is that we’re going to use that engine for further applications which are not necessarily east-west applications,” he said with a knowing smile.

    This means that the engine has been developed for longitudinal use as well, opening the door for its implementation in larger rear-wheel drive models. The possibilities are endless, though don’t expect a C 45 to appear anytime soon.

    The company makes no secret about the fact that it is heading down the path of electrification, with next-generation models set to feature hybrid powertrains. The M139, then, could play a big part of this push – augmented with a powerful electric motor, it may well make its way into AMG’s mid-tier 43 and 53 models, replacing their six-cylinder engines.

    Moers added that the power outputs of future 63 models like the E 63 will likely continue to hover around the 600 hp mark even with the use of more powerful hybrid systems. As such, these cars will probably feature smaller, less potent engines compared to the thundering 4.0 litre twin-turbo V8 currently being utilised.

    Whatever it is, we won’t have to wait long before we’ll see the direction AMG will take for its future. Daimler chairman Ola Källenius told us the company will show “some ideas” for the brand later this year.

    GALLERY: Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4Matic+ and CLA 45 S 4Matic+

     
     
  • Lego Technic 2020 Land Rover Defender debuts – 2,573 pieces, straight-six, low-range gearbox, RM900

    Alongside the full-sized 2020 Land Rover Defender, popular Danish toy brick maker Lego has also introduced the Lego Technic version of Solihull’s reborn off-roader, aiming to replicate the car’s standout features and accessories. Just like the real deal, this is a pretty hefty set, weighing in at 2,573 pieces.

    The Defender’s slab-sided design, seen here in short-wheelbase 90 form, makes for a fairly faithful recreation in brick form. All of the design cues have been ported over, including the slim grille, square headlights with large round cans, silver front bumper, prominent bonnet, squared-off wheel arches and upright glasshouse.

    The model – which measures 42 cm long, 20 cm wide and 22 cm tall – will be available in olive green, grey or black, with a contrasting white roof and the same six-spoke wheels available on the actual Defender. You’ll also be able to fit some of the neat accessories that Land Rover offers in its own catalogue.

    These include a working winch (though I’m not sure if it too can pull nearly twice its own weight), a side-mounted pannier and a roof ladder. The removable roof rack, on the other hand, holds all the gear you’ll need for a serious off-road adventure, including a storage box and traction mats.

    Inside, you’ll find four seats and a working steering wheel, and you can also twist the rear-mounted spare wheel to open the side-opening tailgate. Folding the rear seats forward, meanwhile, exposes the model’s party piece – a full working transmission.

    Lego says this is the most sophisticated Technic gearbox yet, even though it has half the ratios of the Defender’s ZF automatic – four speeds instead of eight. Still it has a low-range ratios and two levers to control them all, the latter you can’t find on the real thing.

    There’s also a moving straight-six engine that replicates the car’s 3.0 litre Ingenium petrol unit, which features a 48-volt mild hybrid system and produces 400 PS and 550 Nm of torque. The Lego Technic Defender will retail in stores globally on October 1, priced at RM899.90.

    GALLERY: 2020 Land Rover Defender at Frankfurt

     
     
  • X247 Mercedes-Benz GLB range displayed at Frankfurt

    Mercedes-Benz’s newest seven-seater compact SUV, the X247 GLB, is currently on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and we managed to photograph two variants, specifically the GLB 200 and the hot AMG GLB 35 4Matic.

    As the more practical and spacious alternative to the GLA, the GLB is the first Mercedes compact car to come with the option of seven seats. It measures 4,634 mm long, 1,834 mm wide and 1,658 mm (1,662 mm for the seven-seater version) tall, while its wheelbase is 2,829 mm long, which is a full 100 mm longer than the new B-Class.

    Powertrain options start from the Renault-derived 1.33 litre M282 turbocharged four-cylinder petrol in the GLB 200, producing 163 hp at 5,500 rpm and 250 Nm of torque from 1,600 to 4,200 rpm. It’s married to a Getrag-made seven-speed dual clutch transmission, enabling a zero to 100 km/h time of 9.1 seconds and a top speed of 207 km/h. Fuel consumption is rated between 6.0 and 6.2 litres per 100 km.

    Stepping up to the GLB 250 gets you an in-house 2.0 litre M260 mill with 224 hp at 5,800 rpm and 350 Nm from 1,800 to 4,000 rpm. With Mercedes’ new eight-speed 8G-DCT, it will get to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds before hitting 236 km/h, whilst being capable of delivering 7.2 to 7.4 litres per 100 km.

    The current range-topper is the AMG GLB 35 4Matic, which is also powered by a 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit that’s fettled to make 306 PS from 5,800 to 6,100 rpm and 400 Nm of torque from 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. An AMG Performance 4Matic AWD system is present, but unlike the A 35 cars, the GLB 35 uses an eight-speed AMG Speedshift DCT dual-clutch transmission instead of a seven-speed unit.

    Performance-wise, the AMG GLB 35 will do the century sprint in 5.2 seconds, before reaching an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h. Average fuel consumption is 7.5 litres per 100 km following NEDC regulations.

    Design-wise, the boxy SUV features rectangular headlights flanking a six-point grille, while the side profile is dominated by the muscular shoulders, short overhangs, upright glasshouse and distinctive window line kink. The rectangular theme extends to the LED tail light graphics as well. Options include LED and Multibeam LED headlights, along with LED fog lights.

    Inside, the GLB’s cabin gets a more angular design approach, with a large cutout in the dash for the screen, as well as large tubular trim piece made out of aluminium-look plastic. The turbine-style air vents and the massive flatscreen display panel remain, as is the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, which is available with mood-lifting Energising comfort control that can now link up with selected Garmin smartwatches to improve its precision.

    Third-row passengers get a one-touch Easy Entry function for better access to the seats, as well as twin cupholders and non-slip cubby holes, each with its own USB port.

    The AMG GLB 35, on the other hand, gets the customary go-fast AMG bits such as the Panamericana grille, two round exhaust pipes, AMG roof spoiler, the standard 19-inch AMG five-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels in tantalum grey (upgradable to 21-inch items), and the optional AMG Night package that adds on high-gloss black trim and black chrome-plated tailpipes.

    On the inside, red accents highlight the model’s sportiness, although this particular model on display gets white contrast stitching to go with the two-tone perforated leather seats. Carbon-fibre trimmings can be added as well, and the standard sport steering wheel can be upgraded to the AMG Performance steering wheel.

    As for driver assistance systems, the GLB gets Distronic adaptive cruise control that adapts the speed to corners, crossroads and roundabouts, plus automatic restarts if Active Parking Assist is selected. The Active Steering Assist function now also features Active Lane Change Assist that provides hands-free lane changes.

    GALLERY: X247 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic


    GALLERY: X247 Mercedes-Benz GLB 200

     
     
  • Polestar 2 EV displayed at Frankfurt – 408 hp, 660 Nm!

    The Polestar 2 made its world debut earlier this year in February, and it’s currently being displayed at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The Polestar 2 is basically the production version of the Volvo 40.2 concept from 2016, albeit designed exclusively to be a pure electric vehicle, rivalling the likes of the Tesla Model 3.

    The range-topping model is powered by a pair of electric motors, each producing 150 kW (204 hp) and 330 Nm of torque, are placed on each axle to provide all-wheel drive. Together, the system produces 300 kW (408 hp) and 660 Nm. That’s as powerful as Volvo’s T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid engine, but with an additional 20 Nm, allowing the Polestar 2 to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in under five seconds. With a 78 kWh battery, Polestar targets a range of up to 500 km on the new, more stringent WLTP cycle.

    It’s built on the same Compact Modular Architecture (CMA) platform as the Volvo XC40 and the Lynk & Co 01, 02 and 03, and the 27-module battery pack is integrated into the floor of the car, contributing to chassis rigidity. It also reduces noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) – road noise is said to be 3.7 dB lower compared to a conventional chassis.

    Inside, there’s a massive 11-inch portrait-format touchscreen, which is linked to a new Android-based infotainment system. It’s developed in collaboration with Google, featuring built-in Google Assistant voice control, Google Maps navigation (complete with charging station locations) and Google Play Store for additional apps.

    The Polestar 2 will feature a vegan interior as standard, with options including fabric and a new Weave Tech material that the company says is inspired by diving wetsuits. It’s water and dirt resistant, although you can also pick perforated Nappa leather if you so wish. There are also a number of trim options such as a 3D-etched polycarbonate and black ash wood.

    At launch, buyers can specify a Performance Pack that adds Öhlins dampers, Brembo brakes and 20-inch forged alloy wheels, plus gold accents including the seat belts, brake callipers and valve caps on the wheels. Pricing for the first 12 months will start at €39,900 (RM184,800), rising up to €59,900 (RM277,400) for the launch version with all the bells and whistles, and the car will also be available through subscription. Production will kick off in China in February next year.


    GALERY: Polestar 2 press photos

     
     
  • Audi AI:Trail quattro concept – off-road EV previewed

    Of the many cars that are being displayed at the ongoing Frankfurt Motor Show, the Audi AI:Trail quattro has to be one of the funkiest. Dubbed as the off-roader of the future, the four-seater electric vehicle is tailor made for the adventurous, which is why the cabin is void of big screens with fancy streaming tech.

    As the fourth Audi AI model to be introduced after the Audi Aicon, AI:Race (previously known as the PB18 e-tron), and AI:ME, the AI:Trail quattro looks like it was specifically made to tackle the unimaginably treacherous terrain on Mars.

    Now, let’s get down to the details. There are four electric motors installed near each wheel, thus enabling true quattro all-wheel drive. The maximum system output is rated at 429 PS (320 kW) and 1,000 Nm of torque, which is relatively low for a four-motor vehicle. The reason is because the AI:Trail is not made for extreme speeds, so in real world driving, only a fraction of the total system output will be used to drive one axle.

    Since the wheels are individually powered, there is no need for differentials and locks. Instead, computers determine how much power to send to the gears at any given time, and the onboard electronics also coordinate driving stability and traction. If slip is detected, the computer simply reduces torque supply to the affected wheel. Conversely, if the situation necessitates some slip, such as on low-grip uphill stretches, the system will automatically allow it.

    You must be wondering at this point, how is anyone supposed to charge an EV when it’s made specifically to explore areas without any charging infrastructure? Well, that’s where Audi steps in to flex – the integrated lithium-ion battery provides between 400 km to 500 km of range, which is achievable when driving on roads or easy off-road terrains. On rougher surfaces which demand more torque redistribution, the limit is 250 km. Not too shabby, right?

    In order to meet these requirements, the AI:Trail has a limited top speed of 80 mph (129 kmh). This help preserve battery charge levels, and the electronics continuously monitor energy flow and consumption, thereby ensuring maximum economy even during off-road driving. Structurally, it’s made from steel, aluminium and carbon-fibre, and despite the high-capacity battery (unspecified as yet), the AI:Trail weighs just 1,750 kg.

    On the outside, the AI:Trail is a mammoth. It measures 4.15 metres in length, has a width of 2.15 metres, is 1.67 metres tall and rides on massive 22-inch wheels shod with fat 850-mm tyres. It has a 340-mm ground clearance, and boasts a water wading depth of 500 mm. The height also prevents the battery (integrated into the floor) from coming into contact with the ground, especially on rocky terrain.

    It rides on bulky transverse links and MacPherson struts with coil springs and adaptive dampers, and the tyres with integrated supporting struts contribute a further 60 mm of suspension travel. Besides the obvious gains in off-road capability, this provides onboard passengers with greater ride comfort, Audi says. The tyres also feature variable, sensor-controlled air pressure regulation.

    The moon rover-esque concept features no front or rear overhangs, and this is called the one-box design, which Audi says is becoming the gold standard for the electric vehicle era. The adventure-centric design revolves around huge glass panels for an unobstructed view out. Almost the entire roof, from the top of the windscreen to the rear spoiler, is made of glass – even the vertical Singleframe is glazed, with only the four rings out front.

    Interestingly, both the windscreen and the tailgate can be opened wide, revealing cargo space. The rear bumper gets an integrated compartment for dirty items such as hiking boots, climbing gear or wet clothing. The side sills beneath the suicide doors hide retractable running boards, while horizontal wings above the four wheels take the place of conventional wheel wells, making it easier to see the suspension in action from the cockpit even while driving.

    Inside, the cabin is spacious and uncluttered, complete with just a handful of visible control elements. The front seats feature four-point seat belts, while the driver side gets pedals, a U-shaped steering wheel, and a smartphone attached to the steering column as a display and control centre for vehicular functions and navigation. That’s as far as interactive elements go.

    The second row features two seats designed like hammocks. Audi says they are good for relaxation in more ways than one, and they can even be taken out of the car to be used as mobile outdoor chairs.

    That’s not all. The AI:Trail features five rootless, triangular drones with integrated matrix LED elements as its illuminating source, all of which are capable of landing on a roof rack or directly on the roof of the vehicle, and docking onto the inductive charging elements. These are called Audi Light Pathfinders, which generate lift in the same way as blade-less fans produce their air flow.

    They are lightweight, therefore able to fly ahead of the car, consuming comparably little energy while illuminating the path ahead. The Light Pathfinders can also be used as a spotlight. That explains the lack of headlights now, doesn’t it? If desired, the onboard cameras generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into eyes in the sky.

    Other features include the Audi Light Companion, which essentially is a light source shaped like a flashlight that is magnetically attached to the front side of the seat. Here, it acts as ambient lighting, but when taken out of the car, it can be used to stand the light in place and turn it into a campfire light or a close-range floodlight. It also features integrated cameras that can take photos or videos for you to upload to social media.


    The Audi Light Pathfinder drones in action

    Since it’s part of the Audi AI family, the AI:Trail is capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, although the functions are limited to highways or in cities equipped with suitable infrastructure. However, when traversing the beaten path, Level 3 automation with reduced speed can be executed, but it’s only possible on dirt roads at low speeds.

    Moving forward, customers will be able to order any of these specialist Audi models and have them leased for a limited period of time. These cars are also highly customisable, even for those who opt for the leasing plan. The exterior colour, interior details, and technical options can be pre-configured online with the app or via the driver details stored in the myAudi system. Even your preferred cabin temperature, seat adjustment, and music library will be activated as soon as you enter the car.

    In the words of Audi’s design chief, March Lichte: “With the AI:Trail, we are showing an off-road concept with an emissions-free electric drive for an innovative driving experience away from paved roads. Consistent with this, we designed a monolithic basic vehicle body with maximum glazing to create an intense connection to the surroundings. A concept for sustainable mobility on demand.” We’re not quite sure how to react to this, but boy that looks cool, no?

     
     
  • Honda e on display at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show – two outputs; priced from RM136,108 in Germany

    The Honda e was recently reveled in its final mass production form, and we’re now bringing you photos of the compact electric vehicle while it is on display at the 2019 Frankfurt Motor Show.

    First previewed by the Honda e Prototype earlier this year at the Geneva Motor Show, the EV is powered by a 35.5 kWh lithium-ion battery positioned on the floor of the car, which provides up to 220 km of range on a single charge.

    The Honda e supports AC charging via a Type 2 connection, and the company is offering the Honda Power Charger with 7.4 kW (single-phase power supply) and 22 kW (three-phase power supply) outputs as one home charging solution. Honda says the latter will allow owners to charge their cars to 100% capacity in 4.1 hours.

    Alternatively, the EV can also be juiced up more quickly with DC charging using a CCS2 connection, with the company saying it’ll take just 30 minutes for battery to achieve an 80% state of charge.

    At the show, the company also revealed the Honda Power Manager Prototype, a fully-integrated energy transfer system that is a smaller version of a much larger charging station located at Honda’s R&D facility in Frankfurt.

    Operating on a DC current and with the option of CCS2 and CHAdeMO connections, the system manages energy between the grid, homes and electric vehicles, enabling the efficient usage and storage of energy. The bi-directional charger works by returning energy to the grid whilst the car is charging, which will help to stabilise the grid at times of short energy supply.

    Shifting our focus back on the Honda e, the powertrain also features an electric motor driving the rear axle, with two power outputs – 100 kW (136 PS) and 113 kW (154 PS) – available; maximum torque is rated at 315 Nm. In terms of performance, the Honda e will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in approximately eight seconds.

    Meanwhile, the avantgarde interior is a mix of pleasant materials, colours and technology, the last of which is showcased by a five-screen setup dominating the dashboard.

    As previously detailed, the driver and front passenger have access to two primary 12.3-inch touchscreen displays, while the remaining three screens are dedicated to the side cameras (two six-inch units) as well as the driver’s eight-inch digital instrument cluster.

    Finally, pricing for the Honda e was also revealed, and in Germany, the EV will start from 29,470 euros (RM136,108) for the 100 kW version, with the 113 kW model costing 32,470 euros (RM149,964). Up until now, over 40,000 expressions of interest have been secured since the prototype made its debut, and first deliveries are slated for summer 2020.

     
     
 

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Last Updated 07 Dec 2019