Audi brings A3 E-Tron to the U.S.

Audi today kicked off the A3 e-tron electric vehicle pilot program in the U.S. with the goal of defining the requirements of premium car buyers. Audi made the announcement today at TED2012 in Long Beach, California.

The A3 e-tron pilot program will take place in the San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Denver markets.

The program marks the first step by Audi into the expanding U.S. electric vehicle landscape. Audi wants to create a dialogue about the role transportation will play in the global megacities of the future. The Audi Social Space at TED2012 will present a variety of perspectives on this topic on touch-screen video installations allowing attendees to pose new mobility scenarios for future urban spaces and contribute in real time to Audi’s live Twitter feed.

Elements of Audi balanced mobility initiatives will provide a backdrop for the interactive Social Space and spark conversation on future urban mobility and how to achieve CO2 neutrality across the mobility chain. Initiatives include: the lightweight A2 concept EV that features technology built specifically for the megacity of the future, like traffic-friendly piloted drive technologies for stop-and-go congestion; the Audi e-gas project, which utilizes offshore wind turbines to generate clean power for the production of electricity, hydrogen and methane; and futuristic cityscapes designed by partner architects of the Audi Urban Future Initiative.

“As part of the long-range Audi corporate goal of moving toward CO2-neutral mobility, there will be e-tron plug-in vehicle products exhibiting all of the performance and design attributes Audi drivers have come to expect,” said Johan de Nysschen, President, Audi of America. “Audi is committed to refining Audi e-tron technology and we expect our plug-in vehicles to become a significant choice for our buyers within a growing line of advanced, efficient Audi powertrains over the coming years.”

Audi’s A3 e-tron pilot program will help the automaker identify challenges and opportunities as premium car buyers become attracted to EV technology. Audi will study the effects of climate, driving habits and performance in several geographic regions throughout the year-long program.

“The A3 e-tron pilot program serves as an important innovation platform for Audi to develop greater insight into electric vehicles and how American driving conditions affect use of the progressive technology in everyday life,” said Jeff Curry, e-mobility and sustainability strategy lead at Audi of America. “We will integrate the data generated from this program into the launch of a range of Audi e-tron models for American drivers.”

Audi engineers are researching multiple technologies to meet different driving needs including full battery-electric (BEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and extended range electric (EREV) versions. The company plans to have the optimum solution, or solutions, for its customers.

Based on the standard Audi A3, the A3 e-tron features a fully electric powertrain with a 26kw lithium-ion battery. The car has 199 lb-ft torque, a battery range of approximately 90 miles and a top speed of 90 mph.

Ford releases “sneak peek” of new Mustang ad

Ford is offering a preview of the new “Mustang Inner TV” commercial tomorrow at 11 a.m. EST on its Google Hangout and later via YouTube and on the Mustang Facebook page. The ad will make its national debut during the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 26.

“We know that Mustang owners are incredibly passionate about their car,” said Matt VanDyke, director of U.S. Marketing Communications. “Rather than just show features and benefits, our new ad demonstrates how people see the product as an extension of who they are. We believe that everyone has an inner Mustang just waiting to be unleashed.”

The spot shows customers unleashing their “inner Mustang” by showing the car changing to satisfy the tastes of a wide range of consumers. The ad builds on the Mustang Customizer (http://ford.com/mustang/customizer, which has generated more than 4 million digital Mustangs built since launching last fall

“This ad was created to work in tandem with the success of our Mustang Customizer and downloadable app, which allows anyone to create their very own Mustang, selecting colors, accessories and decals to complement the amazing design,” said Lee Jelenic, Ford Car Marketing Communications manager. “Mustang owners are unique, independent, and like their cars to reflect their personalities. The Customizer site and this spot pay homage to that.”

Since the fall, the website and application have been incredibly popular, generating more than 4 million digital Mustangs built and a 62 percent increase in the size of the Mustang Facebook community, from 1.6 million to 2.6 million fans. The app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times. Twenty-five percent of Mustang digital customizations occurred via the mobile application.

“These results confirm the potential we saw in developing a social platform that lets Mustang owners have fun with the brand, interact and share,” said Scott Kelly, Ford Digital Marketing manager.

Mercedes updates F 125! concept

While most of us may be tootling around in Leafs, MiEVs and Volts in the years to come, those won’t do for the upper crust. So Daimler AG has been working on a car for the one percent.

The result is the sleek Mercedes-Benz F125! concept, which Daimler describes as the S-Class of the future. Daimler says most concepts look ahead perhaps one vehicle generation, about 7-8 years, but the F 125! represents two generations, leaping to the world of 2025 and beyond.

“With the F 125! we want to show that large, comfortable and safe saloon cars (sedans) have an excellent future, partly because they are able to operate with no emissions. The legend that is the S-Class will continue into the future thanks to intelligent solutions that always have the customer’s needs in mind,” says Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber, head of Daimler’s Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development groups. “The new research vehicle illustrates and underlines this claim to leadership with innovative ideas and traditional Mercedes strengths in the areas of design, safety, comfort and performance.”

While it looks like a coupe, it’s actually a sedan with wide gull-wing doors that provide access to front and rear seating.

Introduced last at the Frankfort Auto Show fall to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Karl Benz’s patent on the automobile, Daimler has upgraded the telematics with some truly visionary ideas.

The F125! combines two technologies, hydrogen fuel cells and an induction-charged, high-density lithium-sulphur battery, to produce a unique, zero-mission plug-in hybrid with an estimated 621-mile range. Some of the technology is proven and some is experimental: Lithium-sulphur, enhanced lithium-ion and lithium-air batteries are among the storage alternatives being studied.

Power is delivered to the four motors, one on each of the 23-inch wheels, via Mercedes’ e4Matic all-wheel drive system that allows torque control at each wheel.

Daimler says the F 125! will go from zero to 62 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds, accelerate from 50 to 75 in 3.2 seconds and hit a top speed of about 136 miles per hour.

While Daimler has been testing fleets of fuel-cell vehicles for years, the F 125! makes use of a type of hydrogen storage system that is still in the research phase. Unlike conventional, and space-eating, cylindrical tanks, the F 125!’s reservoir tank is actually integrated into the body shell’s floor assembly with no loss in passenger or cargo volume while preserving the range of today’s diesel-powered S-Class.

“The structural integrated hydrogen composite unit of the F 125! represents a real technological revolution, as it allows the hydrogen tank to be fully integrated into the bodyshell structure for the first time. In the future, vehicles with emission-free fuel cell drive systems could achieve the operating ranges of current diesel models with no loss of interior space,” notes Professor Weber.

In fuel-cell mode, the F 125! gets the equivalent of 87.1 miles per gallon. The car can go about 30 miles on battery power alone.

Daimler engineers think battery technology will allow energy densities to double by the time the F 125! is ready for regular production.

The F 125! reduces weight through use of a composite body shell of glass-reinforced plastics combined with carbon-fiber material, aluminium and high-strength steels. The result is a lightweight body so strong that a B-pillar is not required. This allowed Daimler engineers to achieve a further weight reduction by the use of two gull-wing doors instead of the four separate doors on a more conventional sedan.

The common wisdom is that cars will be smaller in the future and so the F125! is no exception. It is ten inches shorter than the current S-Class sedan. However, engineers moved the F 125!’s wheels out closer to the corners resulting in a wheelbase that’s 6.6 inches longer than the S-Class, improving the ride and handling qualities.

The real news is the telematics. The complete array of current assistive technologies are onboard and Daimler engineers are working on new systems that come straight out of science-fiction: doors open with a wave of the hand; rear-seat passengers will be able to operate the infotainment system in the same way. Driver distraction is minimized by a system that allows the driver to operate controls via natural speech and hand gestures. In 2025, the owner of the F 125! or a similar production model will be able to enjoy a completely personalized information and entertainment program without any manual inputs. Should they exist by 2025, the F 125! will be able to operate on automated highways.

Now all that remains is making the small fortune that will be required to buy a production version of the F 125! The current S-Class models range from about $92,000 to about $159,000. Adjusting for inflation and the cost of living, the 2025 version should go for somewhere between $127,000 and $220,000.

Fiat unveils the 500L

The Italian press called it “Ellezero” from L-zero, the project designation and photographers spent months trying to get an undisguised shot while artists produced their concepts of what Fiat’s new Mini-Fighter would look like.

Today, Fiat took the wraps off Ellezero, the new five-door, five-passenger 500L. The “L” is for “Large” because the new multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) is not only bigger than its sedan sibling, it isn’t really a Cinquecento: it shares a platform with the new Punto. While Fiat stylists used a lot of the 500’s design language, they also incorporated some cues from the popular Fiat Panda to create the squared-off back.

According to the folks in Turin, the 500L combines the feel of a small SUV with the size and efficiency of a B-segment car, creating an alternative to the traditional B and C segment offerings.

The 500L will make its official debut at the Geneva Auto Show next month and will go on sales in Europe in the fourth quarter of this year. It will join the 500 and 500 Abarth at U.S. dealerships in 2013.

All 500Ls will be built at Fiat’s plant in Kragujevac, Serbia. The European version will be offered their choice of Fiat’s TwinAir or 1.4-liter gasoline engines or the 1.3-liter MultiJet turbodiesel. 500Ls destined for the U.S. will have a different engine.

U.S. pricing will be announced later.