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Rinspeed E2 concept: first pictures

Published: 27 February 2009

Fancy both a Fiat 500 Abarth and an entry-level 500, but as an all-in-one package? Then infamous Swiss concept car builder Rinspeed has the car for you. Called the E2, it’s based on the 500 Abarth, but with some clever engine management technology that allows the car to run with either 158bhp or 59bhp.

Hang on, why would I want my Rinspeed E2 with just 59bhp?

Because you just don’t need 158bhp when you’re stuck in a city centre. In ‘Commuting’ mode the E2 has just 59bhp, enough to crawl around in traffic and (according to Rinspeed) still do 70.1mpg.

But get out onto an open road, press a button and you’ll have 158bhp from the turbocharged 1.4-litre engine. For your guilty pleasures you’ll then return around 40mpg in this ‘Highway’ mode.

The E2 is the latest in a long line of environmentally friendly concepts from Rinspeed boss Frank Rinderknecht. In the past we’ve seen gas-powered Porsches, electric Lotuses, city cars that shrink in length to make parking a doddle, and the latest, the iChange, which changes to a sleeker shape when there aren’t any rear passengers.

‘Just like the auto industry has to adjust to the demands of a new era, tuners have to look for new ways to do business as well,’ said Rinderknecht. ‘I don’t believe too much in eco tuning. Many drivers are not willing to miss out on driving fun and don’t want to drive a something that announces to the world that they do without. But the number of people who want to use our energy supply responsibly not in the least because they want to protect our environment will grow quickly.’

And it’s not just Rinspeed who is fiddling with power levels – many mainstream manufacturers are looking into switchable power levels as well. At the moment the E2 is a concept, but Rinderknecht told CAR that ‘it could be real within a very short period’.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy