A Swoopy Look at the Future Debuts; Surprise: It’s Not An Electric Car
For weeks, Infiniti has been teasing the Q Inspiration Concept ahead of its world introduction at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The glimpses hinted at the Japanese luxury carmaker’s future design direction and how its next fleet of cars could look. Not seeing any tailpipes on the rear end led us to believe it was powered by a battery-electric powertrain.
But when the car was revealed today, the Infiniti Q Inspiration proved to be more than just a swoopy, athletic piece of motor show eye candy; beneath the skin the concept featured Infiniti’s new variable compression ration gasoline engine technology (VC-Turbo).
A Different Kind of Gasoline Engine
VC-Turbo made its production debut in the 2019 QX50 crossover SUV at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show last November. In the Q Inspiration, VC-Turbo allows Infiniti designers to make the most of the packaging, taking advantage of the compact powertrain to increase the size of the cabin while maintaining the footprint of a midsize car.
The Infiniti concept drives into the brand’s future
The VC-Turbo uses some complex mechanical magic to vary compression on the fly, between 8:1 for high-performance situations, to 14:1 for maximum efficiency. Mounted to the exhaust manifold and integrated in the cylinder heads of the four-cylinder engine is a single-scroll turbocharger. Infiniti says the system provides the torque and response of a hybrid or turbodiesel powertrain without sacrificing efficiency. In the Infiniti Q Inspiration, the power is directed to four wheels via a front-biased all-wheel-drive drivetrain. The system can direct torque to the rear wheels individually as needed.
Deatails about power output or fuel economy were not released.
Short Hood, Stretched Cabin And Swooping, Coupe-Like Roof Line
The Infiniti Q Inspiration will certainly stand out in a crowd. It features an over-sized, double-arch grille with narrow slits and a lighted Infiniti logo near the hood line. Additional scoops bring more wind into the engine and feed the blade-like air curtains used to reduce turbulence around the front wheels. The slit LED headlamps are framed by distinctive LED strip lights. bulging fenders give the sedan a muscular stance, with a strong crease that runs nearly wheel well-to-wheel well. A close look reveals hidden door handles and a lack of mirrors, with the concept opting for side view cameras.
The car has no pillar at its rear door, and the roofline has an aggressive, coupe-like curve that stretches, fastback style, into the rear decklid. Narrow taillamps that pick up the LED strip look wrap across the back of the concept and flare into the rear fenders.
Using concept cars trucks like “suicide doors,” ingress to the interior is easy
“The premium sedan segment has become rather conservative,” Christian Meunier, Infiniti global vice president, said. “The Infiniti Q Inspiration previews something that could appeal to a younger audience who seek modern design and new technologies.”
Interior design is a minimalist approach to not distract drivers from driving. It provides everyone with a relaxed and airy environment, trimmed with leather and matte wood. Even though the concept has a midsize footprint, interior space is on par with some larger luxury sedans. Getting in and out is made easier with pillarless suicide back doors and low sills.
The instrument panel has a horizontal orientation and is divided into two tiers. The upper level features video displays that extend door-to-door. Another touchscreen, just above that center console, controls the infotainment and climate control systems.
The engine’s already here and the design is coming soon
The Infiniti Q Inspiration can seat four passengers with each given their own floating touchscreen infotainment system. This allows passengers to watch a film, read the news or relax individually without distracting other occupants. Each screen offers “guided meditation to help occupants leave any stress behind when they start a journey,” says Nissan “The car can also monitor passenger biometrics.”
Finally, a raft of ProPilot near-future semi-autonomous drive technology have been adopted from parent company Nissan. The car uses camera and radar input to support the driver in responding to other vehicles on the road ahead. In this application, ProPilot can automate end-to-end driving, operating and navigating autonomously on multi-lane highways and intersections alike.
A True Concept Car
The Infiniti Q Inspiration Concept isn’t planned for production. It does, however, offer a glimpse into the technologies we’ll see in Infinitis of the near future. As for styling, the concept is intended to show a design vision for upcoming sedans such as the Q70 sedan, which is due for a redesign in 2019 or 2020.
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Nissan Introduces Variable Compression Ratio Engine in 2019 Infiniti QX50
Too often at auto shows the external hardware of the car gets all the attention, when we know its what’s under the hood that counts. At the recent Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan introduced a break-through engine technology that shows great potential to improve the efficiency and power of current engines—variable compression.
Under the hood of the new QX50 is the world’s first variable compression ratio engine
This is not some science experiment. The engine will debut in the 2019 Infiniti QX50, which will arrive in 2018. To illustrate the dramatic change possible with this technology:
- It will arrive in a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that will replace a 3.7-liter V-6
- The new engine will have a 27 percent fuel economy boost compared to the old one.
- The new engine will deliver 268 horsepower and 288 pounds-feet of torque, resulting in 0-60 acceleration one seconds faster than competitors.
- Early reports from press drives of early pilot-builds of the QX50 with the new engine said it was “impressive” in both power and refinement—and it was transparent to the drive.
What It Does
Nissan said it has been working on variable compression technology for 20 years, piling up more than 300 patented technologies along the way. Formula 1 racers even played a role in the engine development.
Until this engine, all pistons traveled the same distance up and down in their cylinders, whatever speed and load the vehicle they were tasked with motivating had. The compression ratio of an engine is determined by the amount of space (smaller spaces lead to higher compression) left at the top of a piston’s travel. That is the way it’s been forever.
The pistons in the VC-Turbo (Nissan’s name for the QX50 engine) are connected to rods that are attached to one end of an elliptic device Nissan calls a multi-link, which replaces the normal connecting rod connection on the crankshaft. An electrically controlled actuator twists a shaft, which causes the multi-link to tilt up or down slightly. Depending on the tilt angle, the compression ratio goes up or down.
The compression ratio varies from 8:1 to 14:1. The engine’s turbocharger kicks in to boost power with the lower ratio, while the higher compression ratio approaches that of a diesel engine and the efficiency it brings.
This new engine technology promises to extend the life of the ICE
As with many recent engine advances, Nissan chief powertrain engineer, Shinichi Kiga, told reporters that modern engine control technologies were the key to getting this engine into production. In addition to the turbocharger, it features both port and direct fuel injection, variable valve timing and a cooling system with four circuits. The computer brain runs the show and tells the actuator when to spin.
The Bottom Line
Nissan said the engine is more expensive than conventional ones, but only about 10 percent more, so the increased fuel economy should bring payback relatively quickly. The engine, mated to a continuously variable transmission, will be the only one offered in the new QX50. It will require premium fuel.
The package the new technology will come in is a good fit
The bigger question is where the technology might end up next as Nissan seeks to amortize the development cost by bumping up production. The company touts it as a lower cost route to diesel power and fuel efficiency, which might point the engine toward use in its larger vehicles.
Assuming the durability of the system is solid, which 20 years of development should assure, logically the engines may start showing up in larger, heavier vehicles. With those, a six mpg fuel economy improvement is quite an achievement, and its low cost creates an even steeper hurdle for electric drive to overcome.
To echo Mark Twain’s remarks, recent pronouncements of the death of the internal combustion engine may have been premature.
More Electrical Power; Better Fuel Economy
Automakers are being squished. On the one hand, governments have implemented new rules to reduce harmful emissions and increase fuel economy. On the other hand, new electric technologies are taxing the traditional 12-volt battery, making it more difficult to meet tightening global fuel-economy and carbon-dioxide emissions.
The solution? A 48-volt battery system, which will increasingly begin to appear on new cars, trucks and SUVs. They will power stop-start motors, hybrid motors and turbochargers, allowing for smaller engines with fewer emissions, better fuel economy and performance. They’ll handle accessories ranging from mechanical or hydraulic power to electric power, such as power steering, power brakes, water pump, radiator cooling and air conditioning.
Suppliers like Dephi are cranking up 48-volt systems
Over the past decade or so, car companies have been adding a ton a new infotainment options along with driver-assist safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring and backup cameras. In addition, you still have heated seats, heated steering wheels and heated windshields. No wonder the standard 12-volt electrical systems are being stretched thin; so 48-volt systems will step in and help accommodate the need for more on-board power, as well as aiding automakers to meet government mandates.
This is especially true on luxury cars. Audi is using a 48-volt system to help power an electric supercharger, and at the high end, the $230,000 Bentley Bentayga SUV has added a 48-volt along with its active anti-roll bar. Mechanical anti-roll bars reduce the car’s lean in a turn. This one reduces roll further, so passengers feel less discomfort when the driver takes a curve at high speed.
The New Mild Hybrid
The new mild hybrid systems are not like the Integrated Motor Assist mild hybrid system introduced on the Honda Insight in 1999. Rather, they are similar to General Motors’ Belt Alternator Starter (BAS) system of the mid 2000s as found on the Saturn Vue sport utility and Buick LaCrosse sedan.
These new systems will replace the traditional alternator and starter with a 48-volt device called a motor generator unit (MGU) that runs off the accessory belt. The drive system appears to be standard belt and pulley system connected to the MGU. Tensioners allow the motor to apply torque by the MGU and also to the MGU. A small 48-volt lithium-ion battery and a DC-to-DC convertor completes the hybrid system and will take up a small amount of space in the trunk.
Under braking, energy can be collected and stored in the battery. With some systems it can also power cars so they can coast with the engine off while at speed, both of which can boost fuel economy. The batteries can also provide around 20 horsepower and up to 100 pounds-feet of torque for a bit of extra performance. The immediacy with which electric systems can deliver torque can help fill performance gaps in a gasoline or diesel engine’s rev range. These new mild hybrid systems will also have stop-start systems; the hybrid application will improve the quickness and smoothness when accelerating from stop.
Cadillac’s SUV will get a 48-volt system
As for the 12-volt battery, well, it will still have a place in these vehicles, but it’ll be used for powering ancillary systems such as lights and audio systems.
Low Cost, Improved Fuel Economy, Lower Emissions
The 48-volt mild hybrid systems are relatively inexpensive, from $650 to $1,200 per vehicle net cost to an automaker, providing savings by requiring little additional hardware or rewiring. The reward in real world fuel economy will be an improvement of 15 to 20 percent. That’s important to auto manufacturers as the U.S.’s 54.5 mpg requirement by 2025 is looming.
In Europe and China, it’s all about CO2 emissions, which require 117 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2020 and 95 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2021. The 48-volt systems will reduce CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent as well as reducing NOX emissions in diesel vehicles.
First 48-Volt Hybrid Systems Available In Europe
It’s no surprise that with the emphasis on automobile CO2 reduction in the European Union that the first production 48-volt hybrid would be introduced there. Jointly developed by French carmaker Renault and by German automotive tech giant Continental, the 48-volt hybrid drive made its debut in diesel production variants of Renault’s Scenic and Grand Scenic models. Also available to European car buyers is the all-new 2018 Mercedes-Benz S500 luxury sedan, which offers a 48-volt hybrid system as standard equipment. However, that particular model will not be offered to U.S. consumers with the rest of the lineup when they arrive on our shores this fall.
Only Europe will get this 48-volt Mercedes
If the allure of a 48-volt hybrid has grabbed your interest, you’ll have to wait until next spring. That’s when Audi’s all-new 2019 A8 arrives, and the system will be standard on all models. Or, you could move to China, where General Motors announced recently that the Cadillac XT5 sport utility will have an optional 48-volt hybrid system that will offer nearly 30 mpg. The XT5 hybrid will go on sale by the end of this year, but there was no mention that it will make its way to America.
A few expensive cars offering a 48-volt hybrid system doesn’t sound like many vehicles, but just wait, they are expected to spread like wildfire. Among the predictions, IHS Automotive forecasts that by 2025 mild hybrids will capture 18 percent of the European market. That’s compared with six percent for plug-in hybrids, three percent for full hybrids and three percent for full-electric vehicles in the same time frame. On a larger scale, automotive supplier Continental predicts the number of cars using these hybrid drives will reach four million worldwide by 2020, rising to 25 million by 2025.
Technology to go with your clean car
Today’s top technology can connect you to a greener life
Without groundbreaking technology in green living, it would be difficult for homeowners and business owners to make changes toward a more sustainable way of life. Simplifying, conserving water and energy, and reducing overall waste output goes a long way, but it’s technology that makes the biggest difference in our quest for a more environmentally responsible future.
This year, the US is expected to make leaps and bounds towards a greater reliance on renewable energy sources. While new policies and changes at a corporate level play a huge role in these changes, individuals like you are making a big difference by living a greener life each and every day. If you are jumping on board with green living this year, consider these top technologies in 2016 that can help you go green.
More Affordable Solar Technology
Make your electric car part of a green tech system
In cities like Los Angeles, the top producer of solar power, we have seen how technological advances are making it easier for individuals in a wide variety of income brackets to invest in solar technology for their homes. One such advance is a newly discovered production method for photovoltaic cells that results in a cell that’s able to produce more energy. And when solar cells produce more energy, you’re able to invest in fewer solar panels, which saves you money on the overall investment that comes with making the switch.
Decreasing Prices of Electric Cars
Most conventional vehicles rely on fossil fuels, which produce harmful emissions that pollute the environment. To make a full switch to green living, you should consider not only your home, but the vehicle you drive. Electric cars, specifically zero-emissions vehicles, are a much greener option since they release zero harmful emissions in operation. In the past, electric vehicles have been out of reach for individuals living on a more modest income, but advances in technology are allowing for more cost-effective production of green vehicles. For instance, the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV will sell for $30,000 (after tax credits) and can be driven as much as 200 miles on one charge.
Using the Cloud to Reduce Waste and Increase Productivity
We spend much of our time in our workplace, and this often results in a lot of wasted products and energy. The cloud, or online storage of software, documents and programs, isn’t necessarily new technology, but it’s more widely used on a large scale now than ever before—especially for businesses. When employers rely on the cloud, they can eliminate costly onsite data storage and reduce their company’s paper waste. In some cases employees can cut their commutes and utilize the secure access of the cloud from home on any Internet-capable device.
A solar connection adds to the zero-emission miles of your EV