Opel Flextreme biodiesel, rang-extended electric car
Eva Hakansson and her father built the Electrocat from a rare Italian motorcycle frame. When she moved to the United States, she brought it with her.

Opel Goes E-Flextreme

GM's Tony Posawatz briefs select group of media on new GM Opel Flextreme Electric Car in this exclusive MP3 podcast.

By EV World

"Don't Hack" the message warned.

I had just tried to gain legal access to the Opel media web site to download a freshly released publicity photo of the new Opel Flextreme range-extended electric concept car, but apparently I got my GM press login password wrong. The cryptic message possibly suggests how over the weekend someone leaked a dozen or more photos of the car GM was hoping to debut today at the 62nd International Auto Show in Frankfurt, Germany.

Like America's presidential campaign cycle, it seems International carmakers are also steadily advancing the time of the year when they roll out their hottest new products. Once upon time, it was the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Then it was the Los Angeles Auto Show, which moved out from under the shadow of Detroit in January to December. Tokyo in the Fall was always a good place of Japanese manufacturers to astonish the motoring world with their often quirky concepts.

But this year, it seems everyone decided to "Go Green" as early as the International show circuit allowed and that's in Frankfurt, where at least a half dozen new, green concept cars from the likes of GM, Volvo, Hyundai and Peugeot will be revealed. In GM's case, it wanted to bedazzle the press with the sheer audacity of its concept of not only a diesel/biodiesel variant of its E-Flex electric drive system (previous versions include a gasoline/ethanol engine generator and a hydrogen fuel cell stack) but also packaging in a pair of Segway, two-wheel electric Transporters (see photo here).

General Motors had wanted to stage a press briefing today from Frankfurt when the wraps were pulled off the car at 6 PM local time, but technical issues prevented that, so they pulled together a hasty one hour briefing last Friday for a handful of U.S.-based media, including EV World, and arranged to have Tony Posawatz, the vehicle line director for the E-Flex System, to talk to us on the telephone. It is that conversation that you will hear when you listen to the MP3 recordings available above in both Apple Quicktime and Windows Media formats. Of course, you may also download the 7.4MB file to your computer for transfer to and playback on your favorite MP3 device.

Some of the details about the vehicle are available in the official GM Europe press release, but its instructive to hear what the engineer responsible for the program has to say himself.

Before Posawatz spoke, GM's Rob Peterson set up the briefing with some background on GM's rationale for the program, which is clearly driven by three concerns: pollution, national energy security and global climate change. He noted that currently gasoline (petrol) is selling for around $8/US Gal. in Britain. Given current trends, there will be 1.1 billion motor vehicles on the planet by 2020. If lined up bumper-to-bumper, this traffic jam would stretch to the moon and back more than three times. By 2030, demand for energy of all forms is expected to increase 70 percent.

Where that energy will come from and what form it will take is of great concern to General Motors, who has decided to diversify the energy used to power its vehicles in the future, and the most generic form of energy is electricity; hence the 180 degree strategic turn-around by the company late last year with the unveiling of the E-Flex, electric range-extended propulsion system that replies on electricity for motive power, supplemented on-board fuels including diesel, biodiesel, gasoline, ethanol and hydrogen.

As part of the company's bold (some say risky) new strategy, the company this year rolled out 4 plug-in hybrid vehicles including now three versions of the Volt and the stated commitment to offer in the near future (no timeline set as yet, however) a plug-in version of the Saturn Vue crossover SUV.

Surprisingly, Peterson also announced the company will debut another eight plug-in models in 2008.

IN BRIEF: Posawatz Briefing

  • GM has adapted a business strategy to diversity the energy used to power its vehicles and it is very "bullish" on electricity because of cost, the variety of sources from which it is generated and an already-available infrastructure. As a result, it is aggressively seeking to dominate this category.
  • The initial target platform for its three types of E-Flex drive systems is its Global Compact Vehicle Architecture, which is the basis of the Chevy Cobalt and Opel Astra lines. This architecture constitutes the largest vehicle segment in the world.
  • The Opel Flextreme pictured above is powered by a 53kW CDTi "biodiesel" engine, which unlike the gasoline variant is placed ahead of the common electric drive motor. The seven gallon fuel tank is estimated to propel the car, which is larger and heavier than the Volt concept, some 715 kilometers (444 miles) beyond the cars 55km (34 mi) electric-only range.
  • . Using Europe's standard 220 volt system, the 16kWh (136kW) battery pack can be recharged in an estimated 3 hours..

    The car's projected CO2 emissions is just 40g/km based on the European test cycle.

  • Especially attractive to Europeans is the fact that GM estimates the car will be able to travel 100 km (62 mi.) for just 6.84 Euros ($9.43US) compared to a conventional car traveling the same distance and costing closer to 150Euros ($206US)
  • Posawatz stressed that the E-Flex program is NOT a research effort, but is a production program. And while he stressed that lithium ion battery chemistry is showing "promise", he wouldn't be announcing any "breakthroughs" today, but that he was "very upbeat" about what he's seeing from the vendors with GM is contracted, including CPI, A123Systems and Germany's Conti.

    He noted that hundreds of companies applied to participate in developing batteries for the E-Flex program and that this was narrowed down to some 27 companies, of whom 13 made formal proposals. Of those, 8 or 9 survived the review process and this was eventually whittled down to 2 companies: CPI and Conti, both of whom will be delivering battery packs "later this year."

  • Posawatz confirmed that early "mules" of the E-Flex system are now running and that the company should have something presentable for the press to drive in 2008.
  • EVWORLD Future In Motion Podcast

    Download MP3 File

    Times Article Viewed: 6574
    Published: 10-Sep-2007


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