GM’s next eco-concept car | CAR Magazine
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GM’s next eco-concept car

Published: 03 July 2007 Updated: 26 January 2015

General Motors will unveil a European concept car built on its radical new E-Flex platform at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

The concept will feature radical styling, with a diesel engine acting as a generator for the concept’s electric motor. And General Motors is believed to be collaborating with urban electric scooter manufacturer Segway; the unnamed concept may be able to carry one or more of the £4000, gyroscope-controlled devices for use in town once you’ve parked. A new type of plug-in hybrid, the E-Flex platform made its debut at the 2007 Detroit Motor Show in the Chevy Volt concept car. Its batteries can be charged overnight to give a tailpipe-emission-free range of more than 40 miles, enough for over 80 percent of journeys. After that, a secondary power plant cuts in to charge the battery. The Volt used a petrol engine which could run on E85 biofuel.

A second version revealed at the Shanghai show was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. As the E-Flex concept is designed to accommodate local-market fuel preferences, the European version gets a small turbodiesel likely to give a range of over 700 miles. GM is also working on active aerodynamics cheap enough to be used on future Corsas which will close the grille, lower the car and even fold the wing mirrors in at speed to reduce drag. Radically redesigned underbodies will have the same effect. GM will also use the Frankfurt show to launch a series of other green models. A European version of its US Equinox fuel cell car will make its debut. Badged GM HydroGen4, 10 will be deployed on the streets of Berlin, which already has hydrogen filling stations.

And GM will officially launch its ecoFlex models, starting with the 119g/km Corsa 1.3CDTi. The ecoFlex badge will mark the least polluting cars in the Opel/Vauxhall line-up, using smaller capacity diesel engines, as well as compressed natural gas in some other European markets. The Cadillac BLS will get a biofuel option from autumn this year, with most Vauxhalls to follow by 2010, likely to be led by a flex-fuel Vectra as early as next year. GM says it is backing lower-capacity, turbocharged engines as the answer to the EU’s expected demand that average CO2 emissions drop to 130g/km and is investing £500 million in 16 new engine families and 10 new transmissions that will transform its line-up by 2012, the anticipated deadline for the new regulations.

Speaking exclusively to CAR Online, GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster admitted the political pressure that carmakers are under, and that cars will get more expensive as result of the new rules. ‘You have to do the right thing, and be seen to do the right thing,’ he said. He refused to put a figure on the additional cost of meeting the likely EU targets, but said some would have to be borne by buyers. ‘The aim is to keep the burden off the smaller cars. The bigger ones will get more technology, but are likely to get more expensive too. We don’t make a lot of money at the moment and to absorb all the cost ourselves would nearly put us out of business.’

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features