World Report: Feb. 20, 2006

February 19, 2006

Mazda Begins Leasing Hydrogen Rotaries

Mazda says it will begin leasing a version of the RX-8 in Japan that can be powered by gasoline or hydrogen. The RX-8 Hydrogen RE, Reuters reports, is based on the sportscar of the same name, and can be run on either fuel at the flick of a switch. The theoretical range of the vehicle is 62 miles under hydrogen power and 341 miles with gasoline power, the news agency reported. The vehicles are being leased to a Japanese oil company for about $3500 a month.

 

Peugeot Plans Diesel Hybrid for 2010

French company PSA Peugeot Citroen plans to use its leading position in diesel technology to produce a small car that will achieve an average fuel economy figure of 69 miles per US gallon while producing just 90 grams of CO2 per kilometer. PSA claims that these figures are 25% better than a comparable gasoline-engined hybrid, with a gain of up to 17 mpg over a combination of urban and freeway driving.

The technology was unveiled in Paris in the form of two prototypes, a 'Hybride HDi' Peugeot 307 and a Citroen C4, compact sedans representing the most popular class of car on European roads.

The power unit in each case is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder diesel, utilizing direct injection, a filter system that cleans particulates from the exhaust gases and an improved version of the 'Stop-Start' system already available in current PSA products. This stops the engine when the vehicle comes to a rest in traffic and restarts it when the accelerator is pressed again. The engine drives through an electrically-managed gearbox.

All this is current technology, but the combination with an electric motor, an inverter, a high-voltage battery pack and dedicated control electronics is new and the secret of the cars' potential appeal. Peugeot is a specialist in electric car development and design (the company has sold over 10,000 electrically-powered versions of its 106 sedan) and the Hybride shows the evidence of this. The hybrid system recovers kinetic energy during deceleration and braking, as did GM's unsuccessful EV1 electric car, and it has a wider capability in all-electric ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicle) mode. In town, the hybrid can run in ZEV mode, without noise or emissions, at up to 30 mph, and there is also an 'extended ZEV mode' in which electrical power is used by default, depending on battery charge level. In normal use on the road, where the diesel is the prime power source, the electric motor can provide a 35-percent power boost for extra acceleration when required.

PSA Peugeot Citroën says it could market its Hybride HDi vehicles as early as 2010. However, their introduction rests on making the technology available at an affordable price. Today, the price gap between a Hybride HDi model and a comparable diesel HDi model is still too wide. It would, PSA's planners say, have to be halved to make diesel hybrid vehicles accessible to most consumers.

"PSA Peugeot Citroën is committed to meeting the challenge of lowering the cost of this technology," the company said in its launch material. "Only by meeting this goal will the Group be able to ensure the widespread distribution of the innovative Hybride HDi solution, so making a significant contribution to protecting the environment."

The Group plans a two-pronged approach: Extensive R&D on the four areas that generate most of the extra cost: high-voltage batteries, electric motor/generator, inverter and the regenerative braking system, and uniting the expertise of equipment manufacturers and research laboratories to focus on this project. The company has called on the French government's Agency for Industrial Innovation to support the project.-Ian Norris

 

Renault Betting on Brazil

In a highly attended press conference in Paris, Carlos Ghosn announced, after nine months in charge of Renault, his Commitment 2009 plan. The goals are production increases of 600,000 units yearly focused in operations outside Europe, increasing the operational margin to 6 percent and a competitive, top of the line model. As expected, he did not set plans for China, currently with excess capacity, and to the U.S. either, by classifying competition as brutal. For Brazil, he talked about five new models in less than three years: a Mégane II sedan and station wagon; Logan sedan, station wagon and an unnamed compact SUV. Following the trend, he said a development center at the State of Paraná plant will be set up to make better use of low technical capacity costs in the country and even to export designs.

 

Kia Re-Ups with DavisCup

Kia Motors said it has renewed its sponsorship of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas as a worldwide automobile partner, commencing with the First Round taking place Feb. 10-12, 2006 in 24 countries around the world.

Over the past three years, the Davis Cup/Kia Motors partnership has created tremendous synergy for both parties by delivering the joy and excitement of the Davis Cup to tennis fans around the world, the automaker said.

Yong-Hwan Kim, Senior Executive Vice President and COO of Kia Motors, said, "the renewal of our Davis Cup sponsorship can be seen as Kia Motors' desire to get even closer to the fans by broadening our marketing spectrum through stepped-up on-line and on-site promotional activities."

As an official worldwide sponsor and car of the Davis Cup from 2006-2008, Kia Motors will supply more than 300 vehicles annually around the world to support the transportation needs of the ITF and its respective member federations, it added. -Peter Chang

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