Porsche podcasts you should hear: Michael Steiner speaks on the future of Porsche sports cars…

In episode seven of a very interesting series of “Inside E” podcasts, Michael Steiner speaks about changes in the automotive industry, the future of the sports car manufacturer, and technical innovations ranging from motor racing to production development. Michael Steiner is a member of the Executive Board, Research and Development, and is responsible for series production and Porsche Motorsport’s racing projects.

Definitely a podcast to listen to. It is about seeing new opportunities for Porsche in this rapid changing global mobility, where this brand has always embraced technical progress with its core values of quality and sporting agility. The keen interest in electrified mobility dates back now more than a century with Porsche, and the brand remains at the forefront of E-developments. “We see the transformation in the automotive industry as an opportunity. Together with our employees, we are constantly driving this shift, with the clear goal being to link the traditional values of Porsche with the technology of tomorrow,” said Steiner. The first step into the electric future was taken back in 2015, with the “Mission E” project. The manufacturer then definitively heralded a new era with the launch of its first fully-electric sports car, the Porsche Taycan, in September 2019.

Of course Porsche is aware that the future of electric mobility is coupled with sufficient range and the presence of a dense high powered rapid charge infrastructure/network, and is working together with other important manufacturers to build this up.

“With electric cars, it not only comes down to the range of the cars, but also primarily the existing charging infrastructure,” Steiner explained. “For this reason, we are investing in E-mobility, both in our development and in an extensive rapid charging network.”

Motorsport remains important…

Motorsport has always been the driving force behind series production at Porsche – and that remains the case in Formula E. “The experience gained in the LMP1 project had a significant influence on the development of the Porsche Taycan. We expect similar synergies from the Formula E project, as well as inspiration for future sports cars,” said Steiner.

The whole series of these very interesting “Inside E” podcasts is available in English on several  platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

Just start listening to this one!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes-Benz pioneered E-power with a full electric 190 sedan already some 30 years ago…

Large-scale electric-drive test on the island of Rügen in 1992: Mercedes-Benz contributed ten 190 cars and ten MB 100 D vans.

Electric vehicles have progressed with leaps and bounds over the last few years. Developments in battery technology have helped massively to make E-vehicles now a practical proposition. But this doesn’t mean that our European car manufacturers didn’t focus on it since decades…

Mercedes is of course no exception. They had a fully fledged, 100 % electrified 190 sedan running around on the German Baltic Coast island of Rüge. Recharged with sustainable wind power. Fully practical. One of the fleet of 10 cars even functioned as a taxi and clocked not less than 100.000 kilometers in one short year. All this almost 3 decades ago…

Just read on!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Mercedes-Benz 190 model, experimental vehicle (W 201) with electric drive, 1991.

One such story is set in 1990: in May of that year, Mercedes-Benz exhibited a model 190 (W 201) converted to electric drive in the innovation market section at the Hanover Fair.

A (literally) very hot car…

The electric 190s were used to test different drive configurations and battery systems. The energy storage devices tested were mainly sodium-nickel chloride or sodium-sulphur high-energy batteries which had a significantly higher energy density than classic lead batteries.

However, the working temperature of both systems was around 300 degrees Celsius. The group expressing the greatest interest at this industrial fair were representatives of the trades.

Further development went fast…

There was a considerable shift in this just under a year later, when, in March 1991, Mercedes-Benz displayed a more advanced vehicle on the Geneva Motor Show.

Each of the rear wheels of the vehicle presented in Geneva was powered by its own DC motor energized by permanent magnets with a peak power of 16 kW (22 hp) each, so the total power output was 32 kW (44 hp).

Energy was supplied by a sodium-nickel chloride battery, and regenerative braking returned energy to the power pack during braking actions.

A particular advantage of the concept was the elimination of weight-intensive mechanical components, so the additional weight compared to a series-production vehicle with a combustion engine was only 200 kilograms.

The issue of electric cars experienced an upswing at that time as a result of the laws passed in California, for example, to introduce zero emission vehicles.

This led the German government to fund a project to the tune of 60 M DM (now some 30 M Euros), and this led to several manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, to participate in a large scale field trial was conducted on the island of Rügen in 1992 and continued through to 1996.

The aim of the exercise was to test electric vehicles and energy systems including their batteries in everyday practice. A total of 60 passenger cars and vans of several brands were involved.

Among other things, Mercedes-Benz sent ten W 201 model series saloon cars, which had previously been fitted by hand with drive components in various electric motor-and-battery combinations in Sindelfingen, to Rügen. Special recharging stations using solar collectors were available during the field test with a view to testing the environmental concept in a consistent manner because only electricity from renewable sources can be considered completely CO2 neutral.

100,000 kilometres in one year with an electric test vehicle

The pioneering 190s were driven by test participants on the island of Rügen: these various individuals, including taxi drivers, used them in normal everyday life. There were hardly any problems – the W 201 cars went about their work completely inconspicuously and reliably. One of the vehicles was used particularly intensively and achieved a peak usage rate of around 100,000 kilometres in one year.

Why did it take so long to adopt E-power for the masses?

The obvious question is why we waited so long to put E-powered cars into practice in larger numbers?

Mercedes-Benz 190 (W 201) test vehicle with an electric drive unit during the large-scale test series on the island of Rügen, 1992 to 1996.

The problems then – and now – were: battery service life, range, recycling, charging infrastructure and vehicle price. Many of the answers to these questions have only become available today, as can be seen by the range of hybrid vehicles offered by Mercedes-Benz and, of course, the EQ electric brand. Projects like the 190 with the electric drive have helped to provide these answers…and it is very interesting to look into them here once again!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Takashi Watanabe, Chief Engineer at Lexus, reveals what Lexus E-driving is all about…

In an exclusive interview with Lexus Electrified Chief Engineer, Lexus has recently unveiled its vision for an upcoming generation of electrified vehicles, under the banner “Lexus Electrified”.

The interview, which offers very interesting aspects and opens new horizons, can be seen using the following link: https://newsroom.lexus.eu/lexus-electrified-chief-engineer-exclusive-interview/

The “Lexus Electrified” vision targets a fundamental leap in vehicle performance, handling, control and driver enjoyment – even as mobility within our society continues to change with autonomous driving and vehicle electrification.

Evoking the original fun of driving, Lexus intends to use its 15 years of experience in electrification technologies to further evolve driving pleasure, and to fundamentally transform the essence of luxury vehicles of the future – creating a unique Lexus driving signature with exceptional ride comfort, quietness and craftsmanship.

Takashi Watanabe, Chief Engineer at Lexus, takes us through the key aspects of this “Lexus Electrified” strategy in an exclusive interview.

The man behind it all…

Takashi Watanabe started his career with Toyota in 1993 with engine systems development. He has worked on many different types of engines and exhaust systems. Since 2012, he has worked also on the development of several Lexus vehicles and became in 2017 leader of the Lexus Electrified Project.

Just watch and listen, and be transported into the electric future…by Lexus, using their unique “Lexus-ness.”

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

FCA opens its plants again…in safety!

On April 28, FCA reopened the Sevel plant, together with R&D activities and pre-series production of electric and hybrid models in Turin and Melfi.

The plant is actually dubbed the Atessa factory, and is operated by Sevel, a 50-50 joint venture between Fiat Chrysler and PSA. About 6,000 people are building daily some 1200 LCV’s, as we told already earlier in our columns, and it is Europe’s largest LCV assembly plant.

Of course, this reopening has been carefully prepared, and is the result of rigorous analysis and preparation carried out in collaboration with leading virologists and other experts and agreed with all trade unions.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Delivery of safety kit at the entrance of the factory…

Playing it safe…

Before employees returned to work, the Company repeated cleaning and sanitization activities carried out at the plant when production was suspended on March 17.

Those activities covered 18 rest areas, 52 toilets, 29 changing rooms with more than 7,400 lockers, 2 medical rooms and 4 cafeterias.

Prior to the start of production, all Sevel employees were sent a link via WhatsApp and email to a web page explaining measures to be taken in each production area, together with video tutorials.  

The measures include maintaining a minimum distance of one meter between individuals, instructions for washing hands with soap and water or sanitizing gel, instructions for refilling a cup or water bottle from public dispensers, new rules for the company cafeteria and correct management of meetings. Employees were also provided with instructions on how to recognize and respond to Covid-19 symptoms and preventive measures to be taken in an emergency.

Workers at work with gloves masks and safety equipment…

Areas reconfigured…

Production and office areas have also been reconfigured based on specific health and safety requirements to enable the redistribution of workers and to increase distancing between those working in close proximity on the assembly line. In production areas, movement of personnel between areas has been limited to the minimum level possible and based on specific needs. Similar measures have been implemented in common areas, while the plant’s 85 offices have been fitted with protective barriers between employees or workstations have been relocated. Work breaks have been organized by area and phased throughout the course of each shift.

In the coming days, training on safety standards will be made available via e-learning, standard internal communications channels and by sector managers with the support of specialized medical personnel.

Everyone a personal safety kit…

Today, every employee at the Sevel plant was given a personal kit containing surgical masks and gloves (to be replenished daily), as well as a pair of safety glasses to be worn when cleaning their individual workstation. The number of masks supplied also means that those employees who commute via public transport will have an additional mask for their travel to and from work.

Finally, rigorous checks were also put into place at all entrances to the Sevel plant, as provided under the agreement signed by FCA and the trade unions. Everyone entering the premises on foot or by car, had their temperature checked by thermal camera or remote thermometer operated by first aid and medical staff wearing adequate protective equipment.

Further FCA plants opened…

The Atessa plant is not the only FCA factory opening its doors again. FCA resumed also activity at its Melfi plant in southern Italy for the final stages of the development of Jeep’s new hybrid car, with some 750 workers a day expected to take up work, and also at Turin’s Mirafiori plant some 250 workers will continue work on the new electric 500.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

DS Automobiles lets you look behind the scenes via your home screen…

In these Corona lock-down times, online presence and using social media is vital for car manufacturers to reach out to their customers, and DS automobiles is no exception. What’s more, they show you some stunning behind the scenes footage on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn and of course, last but not least, Youtube.  

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Indeed, DS Automobiles invites you to take a look behind the scenes of the design team through two web series developed by DS DESIGN STUDIO PARIS.

After “CONFIDENCE The art of the senses” that revealed the secrets of the DS DESIGN STUDIO PARIS to the general public, the brand builds on this with two web series created during the lock-down.

In a first series of videos you will meet fifteen people who are involved in the design process, the development and the commercialization of a product.

These experts film themselves while talking about their profession and explaining the challenges this never-before-seen situation entails. From product determination to customer delivery, through design, engineering, production and sales, DS Experts reveal their work in short videos broadcast on DS Automobiles’ social media.

A second series of videos are dubbed the «Did You Know? » Series and for a good reason: it gives anyone interested an opportunity to learn about little-known facts about DS Automobiles products and services.

An interview with Pascal Béziat, headed the development and industrialization of the DS3 Crossback…

At the moment of writing, a number of videos are already online:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DSOfficial/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ds_official/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DS_Official

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ds-automobiles/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/DS

Just have a look, and be amazed with us over this very interesting insight into DS Automobiles, a prestigious example of French “savoir faire” in car building …

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Audi restarts European production in coming weeks…

Health comes first: Perspex panels protect employees when working together in assembly.

Audi will gradually initiate the restart of production at its plants in Europe during the coming weeks.

As everybody knows, in mid-March, the company announced the temporary suspension of production at its European sites.

The background to the decision was supply bottlenecks and a drop in demand due to the corona pandemic. Now the Volkswagen Group will coordinate the upcoming regulated restart in the worldwide Audi production network together with suppliers and service providers.

The main focus in this restart is of course a comprehensive package of measures that targets on the safety of employees.

Health protection in focus: Perspex panels ensure safety on the assembly line.

In this respect, Audi is following the guidelines of the Robert Koch Institute and the regulations of the health authorities of the respective country.

Altogether an admirable undertaking, which will bring us all soon again on the right path…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

“A joint European Act”

Following the suspension of production at all AUDI AG plants in Europe, it is now a matter of taking the first step back towards normality: “We will manage the restart as a joint European act,” said Board of Management Member for Production Peter Kössler. This is because supply chains and production and logistics processes are closely interlinked within the Group and with partners at the international level. Kössler continued: “The focus is on the employees, because they need a safe working environment. Audi teams of experts have therefore adapted processes with a view to health protection in consultation with the specialist departments and works councils. I would like to thank all Audi employees and our partners around the world for their flexibility and joint efforts in times like these.”

Foils attached to the vehicles separate employees during parallel work on assembly.

The restart includes, for example, clear rules on distance and hygiene, a modified shift system to avoid contact, and the obligation to use mouth and nose protection in areas where distances of 1.5 meters are not possible.

The company has also created physical barriers at critical workplaces. In door pre-assembly, for example, two employees work simultaneously on the same transport rack and stand directly opposite each other. Here, the employees themselves have developed a transparent barrier made of plastic sheeting.

“Corona-ready”…

Managers of production sections and groups, together with experts from occupational safety, health care, industrial engineering and the works council, have looked at each individual workplace, analyzed it and developed suggestions for improvement. Only with the agreement of all those involved is a workplace considered “corona-ready.” The workgroup also took a close look at the working environment: group spaces, factory gates, parking spaces and internal factory traffic, as well as catering and factory restaurants. Audi has developed appropriate solutions for all areas.

Vehicle production at the Audi sites will be gradually ramped up from the end of April onwards according to a fixed plan. Engine production in Győr already started gradually ramping up again this week. For those employees at the factories in Germany who will only be able to resume their work fully in later phases of the restart, short-time working regulations will continue to apply until then…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Groupe Renault has a new strategy for the Chinese market…

Groupe Renault unveiled its new strategy for China, building on two of its key pillars: Electric Vehicles (EV) and Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV).

For the Internal Combustion engined car market in China, Groupe Renault has entered into a preliminary agreement with Dongfeng Motor Corporation under which Renault transfers its shares to Dongfeng. DRAC (Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company) will stop its Renault brand-related activities.

Of course, Renault will continue to provide after sales service ot its existing customers in this market, and Renault and Dongfeng will continue to cooperate with Nissan on new generation engines like components supply to DRAC and diesel license to Dongfeng Automobile Co., Ltd. Renault and Dongfeng will also engage in innovative cooperation in the field of intelligent connected vehicles.

Booming LCV market…

The LCV market in China reached 3.3 million in 2019 and is forecasted to maintain a steady upwards path. Renault Brilliance Jinbei Automotive Co., Ltd. (RBJAC), launched in December 2017, is Groupe Renault’s sword arm for its LCV business in China. Jinbei is a well-established Brand with 1.5 million customers in China and close to 162,000 sales in 2019.

With Renault expertise and technologies, RBJAC is modernizing Jinbei models and extending the line-up with a total of 5 core models by 2023. The joint venture will also export in the future.

The joint venture operates in Shenyang, Liaoning Province and aims to deliver 150,000 units of upper medium commercial vehicles and new energy commercial vehicles annually by 2022.


The Alliance launched a mid size Jibei SUV…

In addition, the company will roll out a series of new models in local market, including the Renault-branded Trafic, the Master (including BEV version) and the Jinbei-branded F70, the F50 BEV version as well as some LCV (light commercial vehicle) models under the Jinbei brand.

A massive Chinese EV market

With 860,000 electric vehicles sold in China in 2019, China is by far the largest EV market in the world. EV sales are expected to reach 25% of the Chinese market by 2030.

Groupe Renault was a pioneer on EV and has sold close to 270,000 electric vehicles world wide since 2011. It gives a strong competitive advantage in China as shown by the successful launching of Renault City K-ZE, the first joint venture EV car competing in A segment with the best local automakers.

Groupe Renault expect to reinforce its partnership with Nissan and Dongfeng within eGT to make K-ZE a worldwide car. A derivative for Europe based on “Dacia Spring” concept will be sold from 2021.

JMEV is known as an agile and efficient EV player since its creation in 2015. With Renault support in terms of quality and technologies, JMEV will cover 45% of Chinese EV market in 2022 with 4 core models.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bentley cars are measured to absolute perfection…

Our everyday cars achieve standards of finish which some time ago were only the realm of expensive and exclusive cars.

So what about the supercars of today? Are they finished at a still higher level? Indeed they are, and they are the playground of the engineers of large(r) groups like for example Volkswagen to test out and achieve what is technically possible now in car engineering and production.

On these exclusive cars they can experiment and reach levels of engineering perfection and finish which they can apply in these smaller production series with higher margins.

Within time, these new techniques will then again find their way into the production methods of larger volume cars, and the cycle starts again, with the supermodels and exclusive cars again in their turn putting the boundaries further.

We turn our attention here to Bentley. Bentley Motors is the most sought after luxury car brand in the world. The company’s headquarters in Crewe is home to all of its operations including design, R&D, engineering and production of the company’s four model lines, Continental, Flying Spur, Bentayga and Mulsanne. 4,000 people work there, and it is an example of high-value British manufacturing at its best.

We introduce you here to the 26-strong team capable of measuring every component of each Bentley model when in full factory operation…

Just read further !

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Metrology team…

Deep in the heart of the Bentley factory in Crewe is a large, airy and air-conditioned workshop that visitors, even out of a government lockdown, will never see. It’s packed with the kind of precision instruments you’d expect to find in a space agency facility or university science lab. It’s here that Head of Metrology Michael Stockdale and his 25 colleagues measure every part of a Bentley to the highest standards of precision.

Metrology is the science of measurement, and it’s fundamental to the quality, performance and longevity of every Bentley that each component is made to consistently precise dimensions. Stockdale and his colleagues can measure every part of each model Bentley makes, from the smallest washer to body panels and interior trim, and ensure that no component strays from the close tolerances prescribed for it. “We have the tools to measure everything from the graining of leather to the surface of a cylinder bore, down to fractions of a micron” explains Stockdale.

Having measured components individually, they are measured again as sub-assemblies and once more as part of the finished vehicle. Thus, the Metrology team plays a vital role in ensuring that near perfection is repeatable.

Flying Spur retractable bonnet mascot system measured to as low as 0.15 mm tolerance

Measuring and enforcing the highest standards of dimensional accuracy is especially important for a vehicle, where multiple components become sub-assemblies. To take just one example, the retractable Flying B mascot that adorns the bonnet of the Flying Spur, which smoothly deploys and retracts only because each component in its complex control assembly is made to close and consistent dimensions. It is illuminated and linked to the keyless entry system as the driver approaches the car, yet it must also retract automatically in the event of an accident. To achieve this precise choreography and to ensure that it sits perfectly centred within its plinth, elements of the Flying B system have tolerances as low as 0.15 millimetres.

Sophisticated tools measure in fractions of a micron

Laymen use ‘a hair’s breadth’ as a description of the tiniest imaginable measure, but such a term would be too imprecise for Bentley’s Metrology team. As Stockdale points out, a human hair can be anything from seventeen microns to over one hundred and fifty microns thick. In contrast, there are instruments within Metrology that can measure down to 0.5 microns.

A micron is one millionth of a metre, and a human red blood cell is 5 microns in diameter. Not every component of a Bentley needs to be measured to tolerances of less than a micron, but there are some.

As an example, Stockdale cites the crankshaft at the heart of Bentley’s 6.0-litre W12 engine, the most advanced 12-cylinder engine in the world which powers the new Flying Spur. Spinning at up to 6,000 rpm, the crankshaft converts the immense downward forces generated by the pistons into rotary movement that powers the wheels. Though invisible to the naked eye, each of the twelve machined bearing journal surfaces in which the crankshaft sits features minute grooves that hold a microscopic film of oil.

By using a high accuracy Perthometer (a tool designed to measure surface finishes) the Metrology team can verify that those minute grooves are within their defined tolerances, in turn ensuring that each W12 engine produces both the immense power and lifelong durability its owners would expect.

A Flying Spur carved from solid aluminium

As well as measuring individual surfaces and components to microscopic levels of accuracy, the Metrology team measures entire vehicles. The department is home to what are termed ‘cubing’ reference vehicles; an entire vehicle body machined out of solid aluminium that acts as a template against which panels and interior components are measured.  The cubing Flying Spur is the ideal Flying Spur against which all others are measured, every millimetre of its body scanned using high accuracy digital cameras to create a complete and precise map of the car.

“Imagine an issue at the prototype stage where the panel gap between grille and bonnet is a millimetre too large, “explains Stockdale. “Does the fault lie with the grille, or the bonnet? The cubing reference vehicle provides the answer, because it’s made to the precise dimensions of the CAD data.”

Optical laser scanning

Different materials call for different measuring techniques. The unique three-dimensional diamond quilted leather inserts in the doors and rear quarter panels of the Flying Spur cannot be measured by a tactile device because to touch the surface would distort the reading. Instead, an optical laser scanner is used to chart and check the precise contours of each diamond.

The cabin of the Flying Spur posed a fresh challenge, because of the range of functionality built in for every seat. The rear seats alone offer 14-way adjustment, five massaging modes and the two outer seats are both heated and ventilated. Everything from the seamless fit of the one-piece headlining, wood trim and sumptuous leather upholstery depends upon achieving close tolerances between a variety of different materials, from wood and metal to fabric and leather.

Precise temperature control

Materials expand when warm and shrink when cold, so it’s essential that measurements are taken at a consistent reference temperature. Within the Metrology area, air conditioning keeps the area at a steady 20°C. But for components that demand the highest levels of precision, there’s an inner sanctum called the High Accuracy Measurement area, where a dedicated climate control system ensures that the temperature never deviates by more than half a degree Celsius. Within this area are three gigantic granite blocks to which components can be clamped for the ultimate in stability, essential for an accurate reading. But first, the components to be measured have to soak in the atmosphere – literally. “A large component like an engine block might have to soak at a consistent temperature for up to a week, so we can be sure that it’s 20°C all the way to the core” explains Stockdale.

An unseen contribution

Visitors to Crewe will never visit the Metrology department, nor will the owner of a Flying Spur, Continental GT or Bentayga ever be able to point to the handiwork of its team in their vehicles. Yet the way a Bentley looks, performs and lasts owes everything to the accuracy with which each of its components measures up to the ideal. And for that, the Metrology team are the hidden heroes, custodians of the continuing quest for dimensional perfection. Every Bentley that leaves the factory is a tribute to their unseen contribution.

Hans Knol ten Bensel  

Support in Corona times: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Belgium presents its dealers the CAR @ HOME project

In order to enable dealers to maintain the essential relationship with customers and prospects in these restricted Corona times, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles developed the CAR @ HOME project to support its network.

How is it done? Video conferencing seems to be the best way to establish a link between a customer / prospect and a network dealer. “We offer this original solution to meet a need and demand from our dealers to stay in touch with their clients,” said M. Yann Chabert, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for the Benelux. “We offer them this tool, of course insofar as every employee involved is legally allowed to work. Our primary concern today remains of course the health of our employees and customers »

For distributors interested in this project, FCA Belgium will acquire the Google Hangouts Meet license, which will allow them to organize video conferences for a period of one year, as well as organize the training of the sales staff in virtual class situations.

This initiative will be promoted by a digital campaign with the slogan “Our vehicles may be standing still, we will remain at your service!” to emphasize once again the importance of staying at home, but staying proactive and looking to the future with optimism.

The simple and easy to use system is also an additional tool for the FCA factories in Europe as the orders generated allow for a quicker return to normal once the crisis is over.

This project is presented to concessionaires who wish to participate. They will be asked to contact their respective zone manager for their region and for their brands, who will in turn direct this digital activity to the dealership.

A remarkable initiative, and indeed, it provides professional support those considering buying a car during these difficult times.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Opel and E-power: a very long tradition

A stunning E-Opel at the latest Brussels show, with a remarkable logo…

We stood on the latest Brussels Salon eye to eye with not only the latest Opel electric cars like the Corsa-e and Grandland X plug-in hybrid, but also with a stunning looking 1971 Opel Electro GT. Clearly, Opel has been dabbling with electric cars already since five decades. At the presentation on the Brussels show by Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller of the entire Opel range, we asked him why the very photogenic “E-power” Logo on the Opel Electro GT was not used for Opel’s present E-models.  

Opel Electro GT

But this aside, the early electric Opels were more than intriguing we found. So we delve a bit more in their history here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

It is indeed a very long and interesting story, so we will come back on it several times. It all started back in 1968, when the Kadett B “Stir-Lec” I featured the principle of the “range extender” that would later go into production with the Opel Ampera. The “Stir-Lec” study was powered by 14 lead-acid batteries and the electricity that kept the batteries constantly charged was generated by a rear-mounted Stirling combustion engine.

Only three years later, Georg von Opel, the grandson of the company founder, broke six electric vehicle world records at the wheel of this stunning looking 188 km/h Opel Electro GT powered by two coupled electric motors producing 88 kW/120 hp. Energy was supplied by a 590 kilogramme nickel-cadmium battery pack and at a constant speed of 100 km/h, the car had a range of 44 kilometres.

I have personally sweet memories of the Opel GT. As a student but already dabbling in automotive journalism, I assisted at the presentation of the Opel GT 1900 in Port Grimaux, and was impressed by its agility on the winding roads in the Alpes Maritimes.

Research took a step forward with the Opel Impuls programme during 1990-97. The Impuls I was a Kadett-based vehicle powered by a 16 kW direct-current electric motor using nickelcadmium battery cells with a liquid electrolyte. It had a range of around 80 km and a top speed of 100 km/h. But more about the impuls programme later.

Opel also was keen on developing hydrogen propulsion.

In 2000, Opel’s fuel-cell development took to the streets with the Zafira-bodied HydroGen1. Its hydrogen fuel cell supplied electricity for a three-phase asynchronous motor giving 55 kW/75 hp and 251 Nm of torque. A buffer battery covered power peaks.

Arriving in Lisbon, Avenida da Torre de Belem…

In 2001, a fleet of 20 HydroGen3 models was driven by test customers. Power was increased to 60 kW/82 hp, giving a top speed of 160 km/h. In the 2004 Fuel Cell Marathon, two HydroGen3 vehicles covered nearly 10,000 km across Europe, from Hammerfest in Norway to Lisbon in Portugal. (See photo here above) At the wheel of a HydroGen3, Grand Prix and Opel DTM driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen also won the 2005 Monte Carlo Rally for cars with alternative propulsion.

A well styled gem… 13 years ago…

But we stumbled also on some surprisingly advanced and stylish E-cars. Indeed, Opel also pursued the development of battery-powered vehicles and presented the innovative Flextreme Concept at the 2007 IAA in Frankfurt, which featured the Voltec extended-range electric propulsion.

A harbinger of the Ampera, but more of that car in a following report.

In the meantime, just be surprised at the stunning elegance of the Flextreme…

Hans Knol ten Bensel