April 20th, 2010 at 12:00pm
Fiat will spin-off its automotive operations and get a new chairman. GM will put its Volt technology in a Crossover. Volkswagen is working on an electric taxi cab. All that and more, plus a look at the Shell Oil “Eco-Marathon” where engineering students compete to build vehicles that get the best fuel economy possible.
Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .
Here are today’s top headlines. Fiat will spin-off its automotive operations and get a new chairman. GM will put the Volt technology in a crossover. And VW is working on an electric taxi cab.
Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.
This is Autoline Daily for Tuesday, April 20, 2010. And now, the news.
FIAT SPINNING OFF AUTO GROUP
Looks like Fiat has a big announcement to make later today. It may spin-off its automotive group as a stand-alone company. The Fiat Group is a giant industrial conglomerate that includes all kinds of different industries: agricultural equipment, manufacturing equipment, electronics, heavy trucks, and of course, automobiles. But if Fiat Auto goes off on its own it could have an easier time forming alliances with other automakers. Bloomberg reports that Fiat could name John Elkann, 34 years old, to become chairman of the Fiat Group. He’s a scion of the Agnelli family which controls the Fiat Group, much like the Ford family still controls the Ford Motor Company. Elkann will be replacing Luca de Montezemolo, who, by the way, ran the Ferrari Formula One team back in the 1970s.
JAPAN DEVELOPING BIODIESEL
Growing algae to make oil that can be processed into gasoline or diesel keeps looking more and more promising. Bloomberg reports that at least 75 developers globally are working on it, and now Japan is jumping in with both feet. It quotes one researcher as saying if Japan grew algae in all its unused farmland it could replace almost all the oil it imports. But as promising as this alternative fuel is, it still has a long way to go to prove it can be scaled up on an industrial size and be cost-competitive.
There’s been lots of speculation over whether GM’s Voltec powertrain will be used in another vehicle, now we may have an answer. Autoblog is running these design patent sketches of a Chevy crossover, which credits Bob Boniface as one of the designers, who just happens to have led the design of the Chevy Volt. This led to speculation that it could be an extended-range vehicle. Also, GM Inside News reports that the company is expected to show a Voltec-powered crossover at this month’s Beijing Auto Show, which would seem like convenient timing for these sketches to surface.
CITROEN “METROPOLIS” CONCEPT
And speaking of China, Citroen will debut a new hybrid concept at next month’s Shanghai Expo. According to Autocar, it’s a big sedan called the Metropolis. And by big, we mean BIG. It’s over 17 feet long and 6 ½ feet wide – that’s over 5 meters long, and 2 meters wide. It’s powered by a 2.0-liter V-6 that’s mated to an electric motor. It features four-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The Metropolis is the first vehicle to be designed and developed at PSA’s Shanghai design studio.
MERCEDES-BENZ CLS “SHOOTING BREAK”
Also coming to the Beijing show, Autoblog has this report on the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Break that will debut there. This E-Class-sized hatchback looks like a competitor to BMW 5 Series GT or the Audi A5 Sportback. It’ll be powered by a new Mercedes gasoline V-6 engine with a 60-degree bank angle and direct fuel injection. At 3.5-liters the company says it’s good for 306 horsepower. More engine options will certainly be offered when it comes out. We’ll see if the “shooting break” name makes it to production because really, this is just a fancy station wagon – a very stylish wagon – but a wagon nonetheless.
VOLKSWAGEN’S “MILANO TAXI” CONCEPT
When it comes to EVs, automakers have been focusing most of their energy on developing personal vehicles – vehicles owned and operated by individuals. Volkswagen is taking a different approach to the electric auto with its “Milano Taxi.” The company is showing this green concept at the Hannover Trade Show in Germany. It’s a city-sized MPV that’s tailored to the needs of drivers AND passengers. For easy access it features a single sliding door that opens FORWARD instead of backward like most minivans. Inside, there’s no front passenger seat. In its place is a spot to store luggage. There’s an eight-inch touch-screen display in the back so riders can keep tabs on the fare or check out local points of interest. In the mechanical department the Milano Taxi is driven by an 85 kilowatt electric motor and a 45 kilowatt lithium-ion battery. Maximum range is said to be 300 kilometers which is about 186 miles.
Coming up next, how do you get a car to deliver over 2,000 miles per gallon? You heard me right, that’s coming up next.
Recently in Houston, Texas nearly 50 teams made up of high school and university students from the United States, Canada, and Italy participated in the 2010 Eco-marathon Americas, a competition hosted by Shell Oil which challenged engineering students to design a vehicle which traveled the farthest distance using the least amount of fuel.
The students designed vehicles for two groups, the Prototype Group, which were vehicles streamlined to maximize fuel efficiency with innovative designs, and the Urban Concept Group, which was made up of vehicles closer in appearance and technology to current models and aimed at the needs of real-life drivers.
Students developed vehicles that could run on gasoline, diesel, hydrogen, liquid petroleum gas, and solar power.
With a gasoline powered vehicle that achieved 2,487 MPG or .09 l/100km, students from Université Laval in Quebec, Canada won the Prototype category. In the Urban Concept category, Mater Dei High School from Evansville, Indiana won with a gasoline-powered engine achieving 437 MPG or .54 l/100km.
Both teams won last year in their respective categories and each received $5,000 in prize money for winning this year.
Don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours on Thursday night when our guest will be Doug Fehan, the head of Corvette racing. That’s Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time.
And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.