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Frankfurt show: Peugeot sounds out Fractal concept

Sound waves: Peugeot's Fractal concept features audio technology that makes it sound like sat-nav instructions are coming from some distance in front of the car.

Peugeot Fractal concept showcases advanced sound engineering and 3D printing tech


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1 Sep 2015

PEUGEOT has previewed its Fractal concept ahead of the Frankfurt motor show, revealing a tiny an electric-powered city car with a 450km range, that produces a unique sound to ensure cyclists and pedestrians are aware of it.

Measuring in at just 3810mm long and 1770mm wide, the Fractal sits somewhere between a Suzuki Celerio and a Mazda2, which Peugeot says allows it to “weave through heavy traffic”, while the 19-inch Tall&Narrow wheels sit out at each corner offering an overhang of just half a metre front and rear.

The French car-maker has described the concept as an “electric urban coupe”, and while the styling is indeed radical, the overall shape and look, particularly with the roof removed, is similar to that of the Japanese-market Honda S660 cabriolet.

Under the snub nose of the unusually named Fractal is an all-electric powertrain, with a motor on the front and rear axle, each producing 75kW, fed by a 30kW/h lithium-ion battery for a combined output of 150kW.

Peugeot says this makes for an all-electric range of 450km, which is 8km more than that of the Tesla Model S 70D.

The all-wheel drive Fractal weighs just 1000kg and can race from 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds. Its electric motors have different gear ratios and operate sequentially with the rear motor handling speeds up to 100km/h and the front motor joining at greater speed.

Built on new architecture, the Fractal has a variable ground clearance, depending on the terrain, with 7cm ground clearance in standard mode that the car-maker says helps improve aerodynamics and increase battery life, but this can be lifted 11cm which means it can better handle speed humps and car-park entrances.

The show car will feature Peugeot's now-familiar Coupe Franche two-tone finish in black and white, while an LED strip above the vent at the rear shows the battery charge status via an equaliser-type display. The same LED lights act as tail-lights when the car is in motion.

The wheels feature dihedral components to reduce wind noise, with the additions to the wheels produced through 3D printing.

Information such as battery life, charging time, car location and cabin temperature can be accessed via a Samsung smartwatch.

The Fractal features a new take on Peugeot's i-Cockpit, with materials such as black oak inspired by auditoriums, while copper trim is reminiscent of audio connections, according to the French car-maker.

More 3D-printed materials have been used in the cabin to improve acoustics, while a 3D textile mesh covers the seats. In fact, Peugeot says up to 80 per cent of interior surfaces are 3D parts.

There is a head-up display, a 7.7-inch screen, and a customisable 12.3-inch HD digital display, and a compact two-spoke steering wheel with integrated touchpads in each of its two spokes. The thumb-controlled sensors on the pads control a number of functions.

Acoustics and audio trickery are key elements of the Fractal, with PSA's StelLab research unit designing a 9.1.2 sound system and software that uses digital sound tech to “simulate the human ear”, with virtually created sound sources projected to “enhance the information conveyed to the driver,” according to Peugeot.

“When the navigation system is in use, the synthesised voice appears to come from some distance in front of the car. As the vehicle travels along, the source moves toward the cabin and shifts to the side to which the car needs to turn. At intersections, it is positioned in close proximity, inside the car, to alert the driver to an immediate change of direction,” the company said in a statement.

The concept car also features a two-channel tactile bass system in the back of each seat, “which allows the bass to travel through a solid medium rather than through the air, meaning the sound waves reach the inner ear through the listener's body”.

The system, developed by American start-up SUBPAC, gives occupants a “more intense bass experience”, without the interference you would get through a regular sound system.

Cyclists and pedestrians will be alerted to the car's presence thanks to the Fractal's “unique” sound signature.

Brazilian sound designer Amon Tobin has created an external sound system that gives voice to car functions such as ignition, acceleration, deceleration, cruising speed, indicators, hazard lights, and other navigation functions.

The Fractal will make its debut at the Frankfurt motor show later this month.

It is unclear at this stage if it previews a future production model or if it is purely a concept to showcase the advanced technology.

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