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2012-12-27 08:04

WOULDN'T IT BE NICE... : You might not be flashing down the freeway in one of these, but Audi's e-Tron uses the same drive principles as a fuel-sipping 'green' car.

Author: Thomas Geiger

 
STUTTGART, Germany - Charging down the motorway at full speed while retaining a clear conscience might seem like mutually exclusive activities. Or are they...?

Thanks to a number of new low-carbon German sports cars, this contradiction does not necessarily apply. For the time being, at least, the privilege will be reserved for an affluent few since these high-tech vehicles do not come cheap.

To show how the technology works in practice we need to fast-forward to the pits lane on the Nordschleife at Nuremberg's famous road-race track.

NEW AUTOMOTIVE ERA

Only a few minutes ago the furious howl of a 12-cylinder Paganini Zonda was ringing out across this course but the next sportster to be put through its paces is virtually silent.

This green car is representative of a new automotive era, a car which produces no potentially harmful exhaust gases yet can sprint from rest to 100km/h in 4.6sec.

The coupe now storming around the circuit at as much as 200km/h is the Audi R8 e-Tron. If it goes into production well-heeled customers will be able to drive this car at full speed without pangs of conscience since the Audi is battery-powered.

In 2013 Mercedes-Benz's in-house tuner AMG will unveil the SLS Electric Drive propelled by four electric hub motors, providing 560kW. Although the batteries weigh more than 500kg the SLS gets to 100km/h in 3.9. Top speed is governed to 250 km/h.

PORSCHE GOES PLUG-IN

Fast and furious motoring quickly drains the batteries of these green supercars. However, driven reasonably, Audi says, the e-Tron can run for 215km. Mercedes quotes 250km between battery harges for the SLS.

Porsche tackles the range problem by using plug-in technology for its 918 Spyder. The petrol/battery hybrid is still being developed but should, the automaker says, be in showrooms some time in 2013.

Its two electric motors will, Porsche says, generate 182kW - but the system is really only for back-up under acceleration and other fuel-thirsty situations; its batteries are only good for 30km/h. The real motive power is a 4.6-litre V8 petrol engine capable of 432kW.

Project boss Michael Hoelscher says much of the car is made of very light carbon fibre and the car is capable of 325km/h yet will uses no more fuel on the first 100km than a normal compact car.

Jaguar has bucked the trend by announcing in Dec 2012 that work on its hybrid supersports car, the C-X75, is being halted. The company told Britain's Autocar magazine that the move was prompted by the economic crisis and only five working prototypes would be developed by mid-2013.

CAN YOU JOIN THE RICH ELITE?

The Jaguar coupe was first shown at the 2010 Paris auto show but Jaguar said investment had not been wasted since the technology would find its way into other cars. The C-X75 has two electric hub motors and batteries working in parallel with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Battery-only range is 60km.

Plug-in technology has been chosen by BMW for its i8, set to roll into showrooms in late 2013. The car has an electric motor driving the front wheels, a three-cylinder petrol engine turning the rear pair. Together the two power sources can produce 167kW - good for a five-second 0-100; batteries alone will move the car for 35km and Jaguar claims 2.7 litres/100km (for the first 100km).

So, now you're feeling all green, let's see if you're rich enough to join the select few...

• The Mercedes SLS Electric Drive will cost the dollar equivalent of R4 680 000.
• The Jaguar, sources said, "might cost R9-million".
• The Porsche 918 Spyder will be "the most expensive German production car of all time" at the equivalent of R8.74-million.

Despite these prices, interest in "the green supercars market" is apparently considerable. Porsche says it has had 300 "expressions of interest" for the 918 Spyder.

ROLLING TEST-BEDS

Regardless of the ecological and economical aspects, Christian Guhl from Dornier Consulting in Berlin believes green supercars could pave the way for general acceptance of "electro-mobility".

The cars are rolling test beds for more-affordable, user-friendly, e-cars and should help to establish battery-cars as desirable consumer items.

Gerd Lottsiepen of the ecologically-minded German Transport Club VCD has an opposing opinion. He regards the green supercars as "big boys' toys" and believes they have about as much to do with sustainable mobility as "Teflon frying pans and space travel". - DPA 

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