Subaru Concepts Retain Environmental Spirit. Make North American Debut in Detroit.
Subaru presented two concepts illustrating their continued commitment to preserving the future of the environment while creating fun-to-drive vehicles. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents review the Subaru concepts seen at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Subaru B5-TPH – for the Environmentally Conscious with Active Lifestyles
The first was the Subaru B5-TPH. The B5-TPH is a two door, multipurpose coupe that features a clamshell hatch. The B5-TPH reflects Subaru’s Think, Feel, Drive campaign, yet retains the DNA of an authentic Subaru. Its design is rooted around environmentally conscious individuals who have active lifestyles.
The exterior of the B5-TPH is sporty and sleek yet reflects a rugged image. It could very well provide hints toward the design characteristics of the next generation Outback. The B5-TPH set out to achieve two design themes. One was joy, for versatility, and the second was sustainability, for performance.
The B5-TPH fuses Subaru’s four-cylinder turbo engine with hybrid technology. TPH stands for Turbo Parallel Hybrid and is a strategically important technology for the power source of clean-energy vehicles. The TPH powertrain will be incorporated with Subaru’s Boxer Engine and Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive systems. The TPH powertrain will be test-launched in Subaru vehicles within the Japanese market beginning in 2007.
An electric motor provides smooth power at low speeds, and the four-cylinder turbo engine provides powerful performance in the mid- and high-revolution ranges. The powertrain in the B5-TPH places a thin, 10-kw motor generator between the vehicle’s engine and its automatic transmission. The combination of the motor-generator and the turbocharged Boxer Engine creates a system which will deliver excellent acceleration and fuel economy. For even greater efficiency, the TPH gasoline engine adopts the Miller cycle concept.
The Miller-cycle engine is an improved version of Subaru’s Horizontally-Opposed four-cylinder turbo engine. To achieve Subaru’s level of sporty performance, the engine and automatic transmission torque converter have been linked by means of the motor generator creating a simple powertrain. The Miller cycle engine leaves the intake valve open during part of the compression stroke, effectively shortening the compression stroke to avoid detonation. With assistance from the turbocharger, the cylinder is able to pack a larger “charge” than a conventional-cycle engine. The Miller cycle turbo boxer engine in the B5-TPH operates up to 30 percent more efficiently that a conventional gasoline engine, and reduces CO2 emissions. To further enhance driving performance Subaru plans to equip the system with high-performance manganese lithium-ion batteries. The technology for the manganese lithium-ion batteries was showcased in Subaru’s second concept, the R1e.
Subaru R1e – Urban Electric Car
The R1e is a two-door urban electric minicar equipped with a small, high performance lithium-ion battery pack. The batteries were developed in a collaborative effort between Fuji Heavy Industries and NEC Lamilion Energy Co. The R1e was designed to meet the needs of city mobility, and with a five-minute recharge of the battery pack, the R1e is projected to achieve 90% of its strength and is able to be driven for 120 kilometers. This new and improved batter pack is a significant breakthrough for electric cars, as batteries are the key for their future development.
Subaru believes both of these vehicle concepts demonstrates their forward-thinking approach to maintaining environmental responsibility by working to reduce vehicle emissions, increasing fuel economy yet improve driving performance.
The fact that the TPH technology will be tested in Subarus in the Japanese market within a year is proof of Subaru’s desire to jump into the hybrid game. It is great to see a growing number of automotive manufacturers working so aggressively on innovations for alternative fuels. These efforts will improve the health of the planet and reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.
Hybrid technology is the first chapter in the new alternative fuel story. Subsequent chapters in this book will no doubt include hydrogen and renewable energy sources like ethanol. Even diesels will have their own chapter as DaimlerChrysler has already developed a diesel hybrid technology called Bluetec. You can read more about Bluetec in the VehicleVoice article titled, “Mercedes-Benz Introduces a New Clean Diesel System.”
It will be interesting to see how hybrid technologies and alternative fuel innovations continue to advance in the U.S. market.