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What was Green at the Geneva Motor Show?

What was Green at the Geneva Motor Show?

The Geneva Motor Show had more green cars on display than any other Motor Show in history. Here are the top cars that you need to know about. These cars are either here now or coming soon, or they provide an indication of what the manufacturers are planning for us in the future…

Cars that are either here now, or here soon…

1. Daihatsu Charade

Why could this be argued to be the most important green car at Geneva? Because the completely new Daihatsu Charade will be here in the UK this July and Daihatsu say that it will emit only 99g/km CO2 – making it the only (non-electric) car on sale in the UK to slip under the magic 100g/km figure (however just as Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile barrier, this car will open the floodgates for others to follow).

The car on show at Geneva was called the Cuore (it will be called the Charade in the UK market), and the emissions were 104g/km. This is in itself quite a feat for a petrol engine (it’s a 3 cylinder 1 litre unit) but the secret weapon comes in the form of the ‘ECO specification’ model, which features Daihatsu’s Idle Stop System that automatically stops and re-starts the engine when the vehicle is stopped at traffic lights or in congestion. These models (with a 5 speed manual transmission) achieve the magic 99g/km CO2 figure and therefore fall into road tax band A at £0 per year. The model with a 4 speed automatic transmission kicks out a comparatively hefty 129g/km – justification, if any was needed, not to choose an automatic gearbox in a car of this type.

The Charade also uses an Intelligent Catalyst which prevents the deterioration of the catalyst metals that clean the exhaust’s emissions.

The Charade will be priced from around £7000, making it an affordable green car. The five door model will arrive first, followed by a three door. Any reasons not to buy one? Well the exterior styling is nowhere near as funky as a Toyota Aygo or a Mini, and the interior is just plain dull. However the previous models also had the same accusations levelled against them, and they still sold 5 million in 90 countries since the car’s initial launch in 1980, so maybe this is not the main priority to Charade owners.

2. VW Polo BlueMotion

The Polo BlueMotion is another car coming to these shores with a high miles per gallon figure of 72.4 and a low CO2 figure of 102g/km. Unlike the Charade, the Polo uses diesel power, but even with this, it can’t match the sub-100g/km figure of the Charade.

The Polo’s main strategies for maximum fuel economy include longer gearing, improved aerodynamics and weight saving – however it’s a shame VW didn’t make the extra effort to shave another 3g/km off the CO2 figure to take it under the magical 100g/km barrier.

A basic petrol-engined Polo returning 47.1mpg can be had for as little as £8000 or less, and the diesel range starts at £10,645 (returning 60.1mpg with emissions of 127g/km), so at an estimated price of £12,000, the extra fuel efficiency technologies in the BlueMotion will be seen as expensive. But if you’re looking for the ultimate motorway economy car, this could be the one for you.

VW deserve praise for making the effort to bring us this car – however it invites the same comment as the Charade – it just doesn’t look exciting or funky! So Green-Car-Guide will have to continue in its mission to encourage manufacturers to give us sexier green cars…

The Polo BlueMotion is due here this summer.

3. Mini Cooper D

The Mini Cooper D returns an average of 64.2mpg and emits just 118g/km of CO2, which means it will just slip under the 120g/km figure. This figure will become very important bearing in mind the proposed changes to the London Congestion Charge in 2008 which will mean all cars in bands A & B (ie. under 120g/km) will be exempt from the charge.

So this means that the Mini will be just as exempt from the charge as electric cars such as the G-Wiz – even though the Mini is a ‘proper’ car (it is a BMW after all), it looks cool, it has a significantly longer range than an electric car, and is great fun to drive. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, remember this is also a Cooper, so as well as the economy, you get a sporty car, with a 0-60mph time of 9.9 seconds, and a top speed of 121mph.

A long sixth gear helps with the fuel consumption; even urban mpg is more than 50 (50.4), and extra-urban is 76.3. And crucially, it also has a diesel particulate filter.

The Mini Cooper D will cost £14,190 and will be on sale in April.

4. Mini One

Although the Mini One doesn’t manage to match the excellent figures of the Cooper D, this entry-level 1.4 litre petrol model manages 49.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 138g/km. This model, along with all the new Minis across the range, has improved suspension. The Mini One costs just £11,595 and it will also be available in April.

5. BMW 1 Series

The BMW 1 Series isn’t new, but the 3 door version is, and the whole range has minor updates. The 1 Series has a great badge, as with most BMWs it’s great to drive as it has an excellent chassis and sharp steering, and it has rear wheel drive – very unusual in a car of this size. In diesel guise, the 118d manages a combined fuel economy of 60.1mpg and emissions of just 123g/km, so it’s also super-economical – but also capable of 130mph. Even the petrol versions have clever new technology such as a stop start feature and regenerative braking to assist with improved fuel economy. As expected with the BMW badge, the price is the potential downside (the range currently starts at around £16,000 and climbs to £23,000) – although depreciation should be kind to the 1 Series. On sale in May.

6. VW Passat BlueMotion

Just as the Polo BlueMotion is VW’s small economy car, the Passat BlueMotion is the economy option for the family saloon. The 105bhp TDi engined saloon manages 55.4mpg with emissions of 136g/km CO2 and a 120mph top speed. The estate is not far behind with 54.3mpg and 137g/km. Both have an impressive range of 838 miles on a single tank and both have a diesel particulate filter.

7. Smart ForTwo

This is the new Smart ForTwo. It doesn’t look much different from the last one. But under the skin it promises to be much better. Central to this is the fact that this car has a new gearbox replacing the much criticised old 6 speed box. The ForTwo is economical, but so it should be as it’s so small. A diesel and a hybrid version would make the ForTwo super-economical; although both are possibilities, neither are yet confirmed for the UK. The petrol versions are due in September 2007, prices to be confirmed.

8. Renault Twingo

The last Twingo was never officially on sale in the UK, but Renault say this will be different with the new model which will be available in right hand drive. The new design is smoother, but not as cheeky as the last model. The UK will only get the two most powerful engines in the range (both 1.2 litre four cylinder petrol units, emitting less than 140g/km CO2) – but not the 1.5 litre diesel, which emits just 113g/km of CO2, which is currently only planned for Europe. Renault may consider bringing this and the simpler, cheaper models to the UK. The Twingo city car is on sale in UK from September from £7500.

9. Renault Biofuel vehicles

Renault was keen to demonstrate its commitment to biofuels, showing a Megane Bioethanol E85 and also a Twingo Biodiesel B30.

The 110hp 1.6 16V Mégane running on E85 bio-ethanol will be launched this spring. Will it appear in the UK? It sounds like it’s under consideration by Renault, based on whether the UK government makes it ‘an attractive purchase proposition’. This is becoming a popular request to our government, it will be interesting to see if they are listening…

The announcement about the Mégane is hot on the heels of the company launching its first biodiesel-compatible vehicles, with the unveiling of the Trafic 2.0 dCi B30 and Master 2.5 dCi B30 vans in France. These engines are able to run on diesel or on a diesel/biodiesel mix with up to 30% biodiesel content. The Twingo shows that cars can also adopt the same technology.

Renault’s B30 vans were the first vehicles to appear following ‘Renault Commitment 2009’, whereby all diesel engines sold in Europe by 2009 will be able to run on fuel blends containing 30% biofuel. Renault Commitment 2009 also sets the goal of selling one million vehicles emitting less than 140 grams per kilometre of CO2 by 2008, of which a third less than 120 grams per kilometre. In 2005, Renault sold 20% of all vehicles emitting less than 120 grams per kilometre.

Renault sees biofuels as one of the most efficient and economic ways of controlling CO2 emissions in the medium term, since it is easy to fit this technology on volume production models. An engine running on 30% biodiesel emits up to 20% fewer CO2 emissions than on conventional diesel, depending on the biological source.

10. Lexus LS600h

The new LS 600h, including a cutaway version, was on show at Geneva, with its 5.0-litre V8, using Lexus’s D-4S technology, with two fuel injectors per cylinder and VVTi-E intelligent valve timing on the intake to boost performance and reduce emissions, noise and vibration.

With Lexus’s hybrid system, the combination, together with an electrically-controlled continuously variable transmission, delivers performance typical of a normally-aspirated V12. At the same time, combined fuel consumption is 29.7mpg and carbon dioxide emissions are 220g/km, figures which compare well with the levels achieved by the cleanest diesels in the segment.

The dual-stage CVT gives the LS 600h excellent acceleration and is matched to an all-wheel drivetrain with a central mechanical Torsen limited slip differential, to give handling with excellent stability in high performance driving.

The LS 600h is out in the UK in June.

11. Subaru Diesel

At last! As a producer of ‘sports utility vehicles’, it’s amazing that Subaru have survived so long without a diesel – the engine type that is so in demand in this market segment in the UK.

Rather than buy-in someone else’s diesel unit, Subaru has developed its own ‘boxer’ diesel, to remain faithful to the marque’s tradition of ‘symmetrical’ all wheel drive.

Subaru say the engine will be extremely quiet, will emit around 140g/km of CO2, and will have a particulate filter.

All models will eventually be rolled out with the new diesel unit, starting with the Legacy and Outback in early 2008, the Forester in late 2008, and the all-new Impreza in 2009.

12. Mazda 2

It’s not being promoted as a leader in the area of fuel efficiency, but nevertheless the completely new Mazda 2 should offer reasonable economy. This hope exists as the car’s weight was reduced by 100kg during development – which is very unusual as new cars are normally heavier – just look at how the VW Golf doubled its weight over five generations.

The Mazda 2 shares its base with the next-generation Ford Fiesta, so its handling should be good. The economy choice should be the 1.4 litre diesel, fuel consumption figures are to be confirmed. It’s on sale this autumn at around £9000.

13. Mercedes Bluetec

Mercedes’ Bluetec diesel engine was on show, as a stand-alone display engine, and also housed in a new C220 concept called the Vision C220 Bluetec.

The four cylinder diesel engine has four valves per cylinder, exhaust gas recirculation, a particulate trap and three individual catalytic converters. This means that the emissions of nitrogen dioxide, unburned hydrocarbons and other particulates are negligible. This technology is designed for the North American market (California in particular), and it’s complying, eight years ahead, of the Euro VI emissions regulations that come into force in 2015 (proving that where there’s a will, there’s a way for motor manufacturers to give us more environmentally-friendly products).

Because incentives for the car buyer in the UK are based on CO2 emissions, rather than emissions that impact on local air quality, there are no financial incentives for the British car buyers to purchase this car (such as reduced company car tax etc). However it seems that Mercedes is working on this; they seem confident they can influence the incentive system, and they are aiming to bring the C220 Bluetec to the UK by 2009, although it is due to be launched in Europe the year before.

14. Fiat 500

Yes the image IS an OLD Fiat 500, and no, the new Fiat 500 wasn’t on show – but Fiat’s stand did provide a teaser about the new 500 which will be out later this year (September). There are few details so far, but expect high mpg and low emissions in a characterful and fun to drive package.

Concept Cars or Demonstrators that may be here eventually…

1. Toyota Hybrid X

For the moment, the Toyota Hybrid X is the closest we’re going to get to seeing the next generation Prius. It promises over 100mpg and CO2 emissions well below the 100g/km mark from a lean-burn 1.8 litre engine, and helped by improved aerodynamics. It will have a more compact hybrid powertrain – using lithium-ion batteries which are lighter and more powerful than current car’s hydride units.

2. Toyota FT-HS

Tipped to be the environmentally-responsible replacement for the Supra, the FT-HS concept features the 3.5 litre engine, together with hybrid system, CVT transmission and rear wheel drive, from the Lexus GS450h. This gives the car 400bhp, and a 0-60mph time of less than five seconds. Toyota say this car will appeal to a new generation of environmentally-conscious sports car buyers (with a close eye on California), and the design is intended to appeal to this market.

3. Honda Small Hybrid Sports

Not a very creative name for a concept car that you would expect to take over from where the ground-breaking Honda Insight, with a CO2 emissions figure of just 85g/km, left off. The ‘Small Hybrid Sports’ looks to be in the mould of Honda’s mini-CR-X coupe, so you would hope that Honda would bring this to market sooner rather than later. However the company says there are no plans to put this into production – although ‘strong reaction in Geneva may change that…’ So what’s the point of it? To pave the way for Honda’s forthcoming Prius-rival later this year…

4. Honda FCX Concept

A fully-functional Honda FCX Concept was on display for the first time in Europe. The concept model featured a newly-developed compact, high-efficient Honda FC Stack as well as a long-floor, low-riding, short-nose body. It offers a large, comfortable cabin and futuristic styling along with significant improvements in power output and environmental performance.

The FCX Concept has a range of 354 miles (Honda calculations when driven in LA4 mode) and a top speed limited to 100mph. Limited marketing of a new fuel cell vehicle based on the FCX Concept model is to begin in Japan and the US in 2008.

5. Subaru R1e

Subaru’s electric R1e is not a concept – it’s a real car, and in use in Japan. However there are no plans to bring it to the UK. Which is a shame, as it has a 62 mph top speed, a 50 mile range, and it can be recharged in just 15 minutes.

The city car is a 2+2, it weighs just 870 kg, and has a high-density lithium-ion battery with a high-speed charger able to charge the battery to 80 per cent capacity in just 15 minutes. The vehicle can be initially charged for eight hours at home then fast-charged during the day if required.

Subaru say that daytime charging costs are half that of a typical hybrid car and if cheaper night-time electricity is used, recharging is a staggering one-fifth less than for a hybrid. The battery life is at least 10 years or 124,000-plus miles.

Subaru’s pioneering work in developing the R1e has attracted a top award from Japan’s Minister of the Environment for helping prevent global warming.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company now plans to have 3,000 electric vehicles running within five years supported by 150 fast-charge stations. And as a consumer incentive, there will also be a 90 per cent reduction in car tax and purchase tax plus discounted parking and highway fees.

Meanwhile, Subaru aims to spread its ground-breaking technology by licensing to other manufacturers.

6. Saab BioPower 100 Concept

Shortly before Geneva, Saab announced that its entire range was going biofuel. This means the cars can run on either petrol, E85 (bioethanol) or a combination of the two. As bioethanol can be grown it is a renewable fuel, and therefore it can claim to have fewer CO2 emissions. The challenge in the UK is that there are still only around 15 (Morrisons) fuel stations where you can refuel using bioethanol, and also there are currently no financial incentives for UK motorists to purchase biofuel cars – however Saab is working on this.

Saab also had a 9-5 BioPower 100 Concept on show. The significance of this is that when an engine is designed to run on 100% ethanol, the power and performance can increase dramatically. So Saab claim the 2 litre turbo engine in their 9-5 BioPower 100 Concept produces power equivalent to a conventional 4 litre non-turbo petrol car. Saab’s turbo system aids with extracting the most performance out of the fuel.

This shows that if 100% ethanol is used as a fuel, much smaller engines can be used. Looks like someone needs to do some strategic thinking about our future vehicle fuel infrastructure in Europe…

7. Lotus Eve Hybrid

Lotus Engineering showed the EVE Hybrid (‘Efficient, Viable, Environmental’) at the show. This car is designed to demonstrate the viability of retro-integration of hybrid technology.

The technology was showcased in a Proton, the company that owns Lotus. Lotus claim that their hybrid solution can deliver up to 22% CO2 reduction, and it will soon be ready for integration into current models. The idea is that other manufacturers with conventional petrol and diesel engines can adopt this technology.

Lotus Engineering believes the application of hybrid technology is a key route for CO2 emissions reduction and that for the next five years it may remain more viable to integrate hybrid technologies into existing model ranges than to develop expensive new dedicated hybrid platforms.

The Proton at the show featured a full parallel hybrid drive, a ‘micro-hybrid’ start-stop system and a continuously variable transmission. Compared to the standard car, tailpipe emissions are reduced from 172g/km to 134g/km, a reduction of 22%, while fuel economy improves from 39.2mpg to 50.2mpg, a 28% improvement.

8. Kia Rio Hybrid

Kia displayed their Rio Hybrid saloon at Geneva. It features a powertrain with a 1.4-litre petrol engine, mated to a 12kW, 95 Nm AC synchronised electric motor and a CVT gearbox.

The petrol engine is fitted with CVVT (continuously variable valve timing) and generates 90 PS of power with 126 Nm of torque. The high-torque permanent magnet electric motor is mounted between the flywheel and the gearbox and ‘assists’ the petrol engine during starting, accelerating and hill-climbing. During steady cruising the electric motor switches off, while during deceleration it employs ‘regenerative braking’ to store energy and re-charge its Ni-MH 144 volt power pack.

The computer-controlled system also allows stop/start motoring which switches both engine and motor off whenever the car comes to a standstill for more than a few seconds. Restarting is automatic.

The hybrid Rio is the first Kia to employ a CVT (continuously variable transmission). The compact automatic gearbox is designed to shift between an infinite range of gear ratios and allow the engine and powertrain to operate at peak efficiency at all times.

The Rio accelerates from 0-to-62 mph in 12.2 seconds, can reach a top speed of 112 mph and returns a fuel consumption of 53.4 mpg. Compared to the standard petrol Rio, air pollutants are reduced by 37% and fuel efficiency is improved by 44%. The hybrid’s CO2 figure is 126 g/km.

To help reduce its fuel and power demands, the Kia Rio Hybrid employs special lightweight components – with aluminium bonnet, boot lid and front seat frames – plus lightweight road wheels, low-friction tyres and electric (rather than hydraulic) power steering. These parts cut the Rio’s weight by 220 kg, or 23% compared to the conventional steel model.

The European premiere of the Kia hybrid was intended to celebrate the recent announcement that Kia Motors, together with Hyundai, are to supply the Korean Ministry of the Environment with an additional 3,390 hybrid vehicles over the next two years, as part of the country’s on-going programme of ‘real-world’ testing to develop hybrid vehicles for the future.

The expansion of this hybrid test fleet (from the current 780 cars) makes this one of the world’s largest future-technology test programmes and Kia say it’s just one of several Kia research and development undertakings aimed at creating eco-friendly cars for volume production by 2010.

9. Hyundai SUV Concept

Hyundai showcased its HED4 SUV concept – described as an environmentally-friendly SUV, as it’s constructed from a lightweight plastic. It’s supposed to preview the forthcoming Tucson off-roader; if it looks like this, we’ll buy one!
And finally…

E’Mobile Ecocars

A G-Wiz (two of them in fact) made it to Geneva, accompanied by a model in matching animal pattern decor, presumably designed to entice people into the diminutive electric runabout (called the ‘Reva Greeny AC1 Z’). Also on the stand was a Prius and a Civic hybrid – all part of a display by the organisation called E’Mobile to encourage Swiss motorists to think green. Not sure whether the bubble-shaped concept in the background would make motorists queue up for a green car…

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