17th September 2017
2017 Frankfurt Motor Show roundup – Part 1: technological and mechanical news
Officially called the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung or IAA, the annual motor show in Frankfurt is the largest in the world and is of course on the home turf of perennial company car favourites Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Wondrous designs and scintillating technology announcements are guaranteed. Here’s the first instalment of our roundup of this year’s major Frankfurt news, looking at technological, mechanical and mobility announcements.
The near future is all about electric vehicles and GKN from Worcestershire sounds set to play a significant part after revealing a new all-electric eAxle concept called eTwinsterX. Smaller than other leading electric drivelines on the market, the unit will include intelligent torque vectoring and will be suitable for any vehicles from superminis to large SUVs whether front-wheel or four-wheel drive, and its unique two-speed transmission promises industry-leading efficiency and seamless gear changes. Demonstrator vehicles will be fitted with eTwinsterX towards the end of this year, with winter testing starting in early 2018, GKN keen to demonstrate the benefits of ‘bolt-on’ hybridisation.
Pushing affordability questions to one side for a moment, it’s fair to say that concerns linger over whether countries’ electricity networks would be able to cope with a potential surge in EV take-up. Honda, which plans to incorporate electrified drivelines into 65% of its cars sold in Europe by 2025, has announced that it is working on something called Power Manager. The project will be piloted in France and will essentially see electric vehicles incorporated into a smart power grid, along with homes and businesses, enabling electricity distributors to intelligently balance energy demand and storage in the most efficient way. EVs won’t simply take power from the grid but will contribute back to it, potentially earning their drivers money, and Honda is confident that the interaction between buildings, solar technology and vehicles will result in much more stable energy networks.
Fleet managers will in the near future be able to feel more assured regarding the condition of the tyres fitted to the vehicles under their care, as Continental introduces a brace of new tyre technologies aimed at boosting road safety and also drive comfort. ContiSense incorporates rubber-based sensors that continuously monitor tyres’ tread depth and temperature, triggering an alert if the thresholds are breached. The system will be expanded to be able to ‘feel’ snow, loose gravel and other surfaces, and information will be transmitted either through on-board electronic systems or using Bluetooth. The second new system, ContiAdapt, sees micro-compressors fitted to wheels to adjust tyre pressures with variable-width rims, basically meaning that the tyres can change shape to provide optimum traction depending on the road surface and vehicle’s speed. Continental is also developing a tyre concept that will feature three different tread zones, with the most suitable footprint activated to suit prevailing conditions.
Sustainable mobility solutions were given a boost at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show with the news that Ford of Germany and Deutsche Bahn Connect will be expanding their mobility collaboration from cars to also include bikes through the latter’s Call a Bike brand. Using the new FordPass smartphone app, people will be able to register for Call a Bike, locate the nearest available bicycle and make the payment online. Across Cologne and Dusseldorf, 3,200 bicycles will initially be made available, and the two companies hope that this extra layer of integration and convenience will satiate today’s changing mobility and sharing trends.
Even some of the very latest sat nav systems can prove far from intuitive, especially when one’s in a hurry and wants to reach a new and unfamiliar destination accurately. To try and tackle the frustration stemming from having to enter traditional street addresses into a GPS system, Mercedes-Benz’ next generation of infotainment systems arriving next year will have what3words’ innovative global addressing system integrated, enabling drivers to type or say three words in order to specify a precise destination anywhere in the world. What3words has split the world up into 3m x 3m squares, works on the principle of encoding geographic coordinates into three dictionary words rather than long alphanumeric strings, and includes robust voice recognition and dialect accommodation functionality. The White House, for example, is converted to live.linen.slower, the Royal Albert Hall into spaces.ocean.gangs, and Trak Global Group’s Crewe headquarters into scarf.brains.nasal. No similar-sounding destinations will be confused and various major organisations such as the United Nations, Red Cross and the Ivory Coast postal service already utilise what3words’ fresh take on destination entry.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCV) have already been dabbled with by Toyota, Hyundai and a handful of other car manufacturers, and Mercedes used Frankfurt 2017 to present preproduction models of the GLC in a new F-CELL variant. It’s set to be the world’s first car to combine hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric technology in a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Mercedes hopes this exciting new combination, which will be badged ‘EQ Power’ across a number of its models, will offer customers with a pure electric driving range of almost 50km and a total combined range of nearly 450km, with 200bhp and smooth, rapid acceleration at their disposal.
Visit our blog again soon for the second instalment of news from the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, in which we will have fleets firmly in mind when we look at the latest models unveiled that are likely to become company car favourites.