• Techrules turbine-charged EV claims 6,300 lb-ft of torque

    March 3, 2016

    Beijing-based Techrules has made a few more bold claims for its turbine-recharged electric vehicle (TREV) concepts.

    The company promises to build cars that employ small turbines as range-extending generators, charging the onboard 20-kWh lithium-manganese-oxide battery. The setup is said to theoretically provide a hybrid range of over 1,243 miles, or a plug-in electric-only estimate of 93 miles.

    Micro-turbine range-extension is not new to the automotive industry, culminating in Jaguar’s C-X75 concept that was rumored to be production-bound before the auto industry crashed. The turbine can be run at its most efficient rpm to charge onboard batteries, while requiring much less under-the-hood space than a traditional piston engine.

    Techrules expects its system to deliver around 1,030 horsepower and, incredibly, 6,300 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. The latter figure will likely inspire skepticism, as the Bugatti Veyron produces ‘just’ 1,180 lb-ft of torque and the flagship Tesla Model S P90D promises 713 lb-ft. If true, the TREV would match torque output of Top Fuel dragsters — presumably well beyond the traction threshold for street tires. In any case, the company claims the cars can reach 62 mph in just 2.5 seconds and hit a limited top speed of 217 mph.

    Two concepts are being planned, the track-focused AT96 and a road-going GT96 (pictured). The former runs on kerosene, diesel or gasoline, while the latter can be powered by gaseous fuels such as natural gas or biogas.

    The company claims to have already built an AT96 prototype, with help from partners in Italy and the UK. Track testing is said to have kicked off in February at Silverstone.

    Very few automotive startups actually bring vehicles to market as promised, so Techrules’ claims will likely be shrouded in doubt until the company moves further into the development process.

  • Lamborghini Huracan Avio edition pays tribute to aeronautics

    March 3, 2016

    Lamborghini has introduced another special-edition model, the Huracán LP 610-4 Avio, to display alongside the even more exclusive Centenario at the Geneva Motor Show this week.

    As the name implies, the Avio pays tribute to aeronautics and fighter jets that have inspired Lamborghini designs for years. The company suggests its digital instrument clusters, center console controls and exterior design language all evoke aviation.

    The special-edition package brings a relatively modest list of customizations. Unique hues are available, most in a matte finish, with white and matte painted accents to provide contrast for the side members, mirrors and front spoiler. A matching double stripe runs along the roof and down the front hood.

    Door panels have been adorned with the logo L63, which stands for Lamborghini and the company’s founding year. A tricolor cockade is placed in the middle of the logo to further reinforce the aviation theme.

    Interior enhancements include black leather and Alcantara, with a laser-engraved hexagonal motif on the seats, armrests, knee supports and door panels. The L63 logo has been embroidered onto the sides of the seats, while a hand-enameled plate sits on the driver’s side window.

    Technical details remain unchanged from the basic Huracán, powered by a 5.2-liter V10 with 610 horsepower.

    The company will build only 250 examples, set to arrive in showrooms by summer.

  • Audi SQ7 gets electric compressor, 664 lb-ft of torque

    March 3, 2016

    On the heels of the Geneva Motor Show, Audi has introduced the SQ7 with several powertrain and chassis innovations.

    The most notable feature is an electric compressor that complements the two exhaust-driven sequential turbochargers. An electric motor allows the system to deliver boost at low rpm, virtually eliminating turbo lag.

    The electric powered compressor (EPC) is said to be the first to arrive in a production vehicle, requiring up to 7 kW of power via a new 48-volt electrical system. A 470 Wh battery has been placed under the rear cargo area, while a MOSFET generator charges the cells with an efficiency over 80 percent.

    Billed as the most powerful diesel SUV on the market, the SQ7 is powered by a 4.0-liter TDI mill with 435 horsepower and 664 lb-ft of torque. Audi promises acceleration to 62 mph in just 4.8 seconds, with an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

    Despite the impressive performance figures, the fuel-sipping engine and eight-speed transmission achieve the equivalent of 31.8 mpg in European driving cycles.

    Fully taking advantage of the 48-volt circuitry, Audi engineers implemented an optional electromechanical stabilization system to mitigate body roll and understeer when cornering. A compact electric motor and a three-stage planetary gearbox join the stabilizer halves, providing a claimed improvement in speed and power compared to hydraulic actuators.

    Management for suspension control systems has been integrated and centralized, coordinating body-roll stabilizers, air springs, differential engagement and all-wheel-steering. Other tech-focused features include standard Matrix LED headlights, optional head-up display, a 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, tablet docks in the back of the front headrests, and a full range of safety and driver-assistance technologies.

    The SQ7 is slated to arrive in Europe this spring, offered in Germany with a base price of €89,900 (~$98,280 USD). The company has not signaled any intention of a US launch.

  • Acura weighing roadster, high-performance variants of new NSX

    March 3, 2016

    The first-generation Acura NSX soldiered on relatively unchanged for its entire 14-year production run, but Honda’s luxury division has no plans to let the newest version of its supercar wither on the vine.

    Although Acura hasn’t officially laid out its future plans for the NSX, the automaker has indicated that at least two more variations of the supercar are in the works. Following in the footsteps of Lamborghini and Ferrari, those NSX derivatives will be spaced out over the next few years in an effort to keep the car fresh.

    One of those future derivatives will likely be an open top version of the NSX. The previous NSX was offered with a removable targa top, but its modern equivalent will probably use a retractable soft top like the Audi R8 Spyder or Porsche 911 Convertible. Some extra engineering will be required for the roadster treatment, however, as the NSX’s battery pack — which is located between the passenger cell and the engine compartment — occupies the space where a convertible top is typically stored. Chopping off the NSX’s roof will also require some additional chassis bracing.

    In addition to a roadster, Acura is also mulling a high-performance version of the NSX, possibly under the Type-R banner. Acura engineers admit that the NSX still has plenty left to give, both in terms of chassis tuning and output from its 3.5L twin-turbocharged V6. The hybrid’s battery pack and electric motors could be improved, too. We wouldn’t be surprised to see at least 100 addition horsepower from the NSX Type R.

    An NSX Type-R, or whatever it might be called, could also benefit the rest of the Acura lineup. As it stands there isn’t much of a connection between the NSX and the rest of Acura’s lineup, but a performance trim like the Type-R could help to bridge that gap. Although not planned as a full-on alternative to BMW’s M or Mercedes’ AMG, a Type-R ILX or TLX would give Acura some performance cred while also giving buyers some kind of connection to the halo NSX.

    It remains unknown which offshoot Acura is planning for the NSX first, but it will likely be two or three years before we see any significant changes to the brand’s hybrid supercar.

  • NHTSA dismisses calls for widespread Takata recall

    March 3, 2016

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has dismissed calls for a much wider ruling on Takata’s airbag inflators.

    Some legislators have asked the NHTSA to demand a broader recall of every Takata inflator that uses ammonium-nitrate propellant. Safety advocates have claimed Takata covered up internal tests showing which inflators are prone to failure, while poor record keeping has further contributed to confusion.

    Exemplifying the concerns, shrapnel injuries were blamed for a Ford Ranger driver’s death in a recent accident. The passenger-side airbag had already been recalled, however the driver-side inflator was not deemed defective until after it had been associated with a fatality.

    “A blanket recall of all inflaters would be easier to explain, but it would not serve safety and could run the risk of exceeding NHTSA’s statutory authority,” agency head Mark Rosekind wrote in a letter to a concerned senator, as quoted by The New York Times.

    Regulators have pushed for the highest-risk vehicles to be repaired first, including older models and those that have been operated in regions of high humidity. Both age and moisture have been cited as primary factors in propellant degradation and consequent explosions.

    Despite Rosekind’s dismissive comments of a total recall in the near term, a consent order with Takata requires the company to prove that its ammonium-nitrate inflators are safe. The remaining population, including tens of millions of inflators, could be deemed defective if the company cannot verify their safety by 2018.