Autonomous driving has taken a back seat to technologies related to reducing vehicle emissions at the IAA 2019 Frankfurt motor show.
Considering how prevalent autonomous driving technologies were at the last IAA show in 2017, it is surprising how OEMs have switched to addressing CO2 output, together with a broader push to improve vehicle sustainability credentials.
This was underlined by the number of electrified vehicles on display in Frankfurt.
Almost all manufacturers had some level of powertrain electrification on display, ranging from high-efficiency petrol/electric hybrids through to full battery electric vehicles.
At BMW, which had a series of hybridised models on display, the focus on emissions was reported to be a direct response to customer concerns.
The Munich-based carmaker further featured the i Hydrogen Next on its stand, to underline its continuing interest in the fuel. Although fuel cell technology is essentially ready to market (Toyota, Kia and others have introduced fuel cell-powered vehicles), the drawback remains the limited access to hydrogen fuel.
While a series of supercar makers, such as Ferrari, Bugatti and Swedish hypercar manufacturer Koenigsegg, elected not to take part in this year’s Frankfurt show, Lamborghini took the opportunity to reveal its first hybridised model.
Based on the Aventador, the Sian (pictured at article intro) is powered by a 6.5-litre V12 engine and a 48V electric motor. Positioned between the engine and transmission, the motor develops 34bhp (total output, 808bhp). Instead of batteries, the motor is powered by a supercapacitor, said to be three times more powerful than li-ion batteries of the same weight.
Just 34 examples of the Sian (which translates as ‘flash of lightning’ in the Bolognese dialect) will be produced, but the car was described as the ‘first steps’ in electrification for the Italian supercar builder.
Looking at volume electric models, range was the key differentiator. In Frankfurt, Honda unveiled the production version of its Honda-e city car, first previewed two years earlier. Developed from the ground up, this new model has a range of about 135 miles.
The Mini Electric is another EV with a similar range. But while the size of the battery pack in the Honda is limited by the car's small size, the Mini versions are adapted from the existing cars, which has directly impacted space for the battery pack.
In comparison to these models, Volkswagen’s ID.3 hatch is another all-new vehicle. But its new MEB platform and larger size mean that it can support a battery pack delivering a range of about 230 miles.
With all these models priced at about £30,000, including government grant money (a benefit which is currently under threat of withdrawal), the range difference could leave the Honda and Mini out in the cold when customers come to making a buying decision.
Lightweighting is a fundamental tool to increasing electric vehicle range. In the case of the VW ID.3, the model uses considerable plastic panelling, including the tailgate, bumper covers and portions of the front bonnet cover.
Plastic also featured across vehicle interiors. In the case of Mercedes-Benz, the company is using recycled PP and other materials to produce Dinamica, a suede-like material used for seat covers.
At the other end of the scale, the Lamborghini Sian features active cooling vanes made from ‘smart’ material, which reacts to the heat from the exhaust system, adjusting to improve aerodynamics.
Speaking about autonomous driving, BMW noted that the company was continuing to develop the related technologies. The OEM still maintains that it will introduce a Level 3 (up to a maximum Level 5) autonomous vehicle in the early 2020s.
The Lamborghini Sian is clearly not going to win any friends in the ‘green’ movement. But with considerations for raw material sourcing and battery recycling aside, the prevalence of electric vehicles at this year’s Frankfurt show highlights how carmakers are taking onboard concerns related to vehicle pollution and looking at ways to reduce the environmental impact of tailpipe emissions.