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By Jody McCutcheon
There was a time, not long ago, when the reality of more cars on the road was bad news, especially for environmentalists. Not only did it mean more traffic jams and slower commute times, but the extra production and emission levels meant ecological degradation as well as anger and frustration for those trying to preserve the planet.
Nowadays though, news of new cars needn’t be received with head shakes and downcast eyes. Today’s cars are much cleaner and more ecologically conscientious than ever, with the trend toward sustainability and away from reliance on fossil fuels very encouraging. So you can once again indulge in the excitement–without guilt or anxiety–of hearing about the latest in automotive technology. And some of the best news in that respect comes from the dazzling eco-friendly cars we saw at last month’s Geneva Motor Show. These are sure to catch your attention and get you daydreaming.
Bentley EXP12 Speed 6e
The name may be a mouthful to say, but this convertible with the electric powertrain is one smooth ride. As Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dà¼rheimer says, “This concept enables us to engage with luxury customers and gather feedback on our approach.”
Not much detail has been offered in terms of top speed, acceleration time, battery or powertrain capabilities, but the company says the EXP12 offers a potential range of 500 km (310 miles)–enough to drive from London to Paris. And we can probably expect a speed comparable to Tesla’s Model S, which offers a governed maximum of 250km/h (155mph). The EXP12 press release does admit to an “effortless surge of torque” and rapid inductive charging capabilities.
On the outside, it’s classic Bentley. The EXP12 keeps the brand’s signature cooling grille that most EV’s eschew, while adding a 3D geometric design and copper highlights. (All throughout the exterior and interior design, in fact, copper elements accentuate the vehicle’s electric capacity.) And when the car is running, the 6e logo lights up from within the grille.
The interior offers several nice flourishes. A stylish, curved-glass central console embedded with a high-definition OLED screen provides all necessary onboard controls, including entertainment, climate control and navigation. A cut-away steering wheel contains hand-made, cut-glass sections offering access to media, navigation, communication and car set-up. The steering wheel also contains two buttons, one for “performance boost” and one to limit speed, as in urban areas. Connected onboard concierge services are available via screen tap, while passengers have a panel allowing access to social media, email and entertainment.
Production of the EXP12 hasn’t yet been confirmed, but 2018 will in fact see a Bentley EV in production, with the Bentayga plug-in hybrid set to appear, paving the way for the fully electric ride.
Swedish automobile designer Christian von Koenigsegg is on the record as being no fan of hybrid vehicles. They’re traditionally weighed down by the weighty dual propulsion systems powering them and the corresponding inefficiencies in energy conversion. So why would his supercar company create a hybrid of its own?
The Koenigsegg Regera hybrid uses its proprietary Direct Drive transmission to eliminate these problems. Power is sent to the rear wheels by Direct Drive system rather than a traditional gearbox, eliminating the associated weight problems and efficiency losses. How much power? The hybrid powertrain consists of a 5-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine combined with three electric motors to produce 1,500 horsepower, or 1.1 megawatt, and over 2,000 Newton metres of torque.
A closer look at the electric motors reveals one on the crankshaft and one on each of the rear wheels. All told, they provide 670hp, which is the highest electrical power output ever used in hybrid vehicle. They’re propelled by a 4.5kWh, water-cooled battery pack, the first 800V electrical system ever used in a production model. Additionally, there’s a full-electric mode, providing a silent ride for about 20km.
With a top speed of 410km/h (255mph), the Regera’s acceleration numbers are ridiculous: 0-100km/h (62mph) in 2.8 seconds, 0-300km/h (186mph) in 10 seconds, and to 400km/h (249mph) in under 20 seconds, which is the fastest ever for a production vehicle.
But the Regera isn’t just about the numbers. It’s a convertible with a removable roof that can be stored under the front hood. There’s a fully stowable, top-mounted rear spoiler for better aerodynamics. The roboticized Autoskin system allows the wing doors, trunk and hood to be opened at the touch of a button. Other frills include leather-finished interior, Bird’s Eye View parking assistance, an Apple CarPlay iPhone integration system and two induction phone chargers.
Production has begun, with the first two cars premiering in Geneva last month. Happy customers can soon get their hands around the Regera’s steering wheel.
Techrules Ren Electric Supercar
Last month in Geneva also saw the debut of the final production design for the new supercar from Chinese automotive R&D company Techrules. With its aerospace-inspired design, the Ren uses the company’s proprietary Turbine-Recharging Electric Vehicle (TREV) technology. Yes, turbines will generate the electricity that will combine with diesel fuel to power the hybrid Ren. CEO and founder William Jin describes the Ren as “[…] a luxury electric supercar with great dynamic performance that is more environmentally friendly and more convenient than anything comparable on the market today.”
The turbine-powered vehicle will come in three different versions, but the “flagship” model will be powered by a 25 kWh lithium-manganese-oxide battery, with two motors in front and four in the rear. While it may sound like an outrageous sci-fi idea, it’s true. The hybrid powertrain technology will provide maximum power of 960kW (1,287hp), with a range of about 1,100km from 80 litres of diesel fuel. Techrules says the turbine powertrain will save weight and allow for a smaller battery.
The interior will come finished in Italian leather, with denim seat cushions. In another futuristic flourish, the fighter-jet-style canopy lifts to allow access to vehicle. The driver will sit in the centre of the “cockpit,” with space for two “backseat” passengers, one on either side. Communication will occur through microphones and speakers built into the headrests.
The Ren will offer several new technologies, including advanced driver assistance systems and several driving modes. In the cockpit, the steering wheel will boast a self-leveling screen showing performance-focused instrumentation, with rear-view cameras feeding three monitoring screens. Techrules says the forward-thinking technology behind the Ren will eventually be used to support future family and city vehicles.
Detroit Electric is a Michigan-based electric car company that manufactured electric cars in the early 1900’s, folded in the 1930’s, then re-opened its doors in the last decade. The plan was to design an electric sports car based on the Lotus Exige (or Elise), called the SP:01. We wrote about it here in Eluxe a couple years ago. The SP:01 was first introduced in 2013 and slated for production in 2014. Yet it languished long after that and the idea seemed dead.
But now, the Far East Smarter Energy Group, a Chinese electrical and battery company, has offered Detroit Electric $1.8 billion to revive the project. Mass production of the SP:01 is slated to begin in Leamington Spa, UK, by the end of 2017. (An electric car company with an American name, backed by Chinese financiers, produced in England–how’s that for multinationalism?)
Even better, the Chinese investors will earmark $370 million for Detroit Electric’s European operations to produce a range of EV’s over the next three years. By 2020, Detroit Electric hopes to have three new mass-market EV models, including an electric SUV, with production of 100,000 vehicles annually.
This is great news for discerning luxury-car drivers who care about emission-free driving. Established brands like Tesla, BMW and Mercedes have recently been joined by newer companies like Faraday Future, Lucid and NIO to make the EV market a more competitive place. Heck, even the supercar market is getting crowded, with the Koenigsegg lining up alongside the McLaren P1 Hybrid, LaFerrari, Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid, NIO EP9 and the Divergent 3D Blade. That means more choice and (hopefully) lower prices. As good as this news is for drivers, it’s even better for the planet.