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Frankfurt show: Smart's energy-saving Forvision

Forward thinking: Smart's Forvision concept features several technologies to reduce the need for energy-intensive interior heating and cooling.

BASF innovates insulation, sun-shielding, solar tech for Smart Forvision concept

Smart logo2 Sep 2011

DAIMLER’S city-car brand Smart will use its Forvision concept to showcase not only its latest design direction, but progress it is making in terms of electric mobility and vehicle construction technologies likely to make it into its next generation vehicles.

In a collaboration with chemical industry giant BASF, Smart has developed heat-shielding for body panels and windows that reflect infra-red light and high-performance insulation to reduce the energy required to heat or cool the car’s interior, lightweight all-plastic wheels, transparent solar cells that generate power while doubling as a pseudo-sunroof.

Transparent organic LEDs situated beneath the solar cells replace the traditional interior light and are claimed to consume less than half the energy of “conventional energy-saving lamps”.

The concept’s roof, made up of an array of hexagonal transparent solar cells is said to be the first light-transmitting roof that also generates energy. It is said to generate enough energy to power the Forvision’s multimedia system and ventilation fans, even in “diffused light and poor light conditions”.

The car’s interior is kept ventilated and cool with the use of solar energy to power the fans when parked in the sun. The OLEDs provide ambient interior lighting during night-time driving “with out any dazzle”.

37 center imageFreedom of design afforded by the solar cell and OLED technology is similarly possible through the use of groundbreaking all-plastic wheels, which Daimler claims are the world’s first suitable for volume production.

A new high-performance plastic material containing long reinforcing fibres provides strength, thermal stability and a weight saving of three kilograms per corner.

Carbon-fibre reinforced epoxy resin employed in the construction of body components such as the doors also saves weight – by a claimed 50 per cent compared with steel or 30 per cent over aluminium.

In addition to the scratch-resistant heat shielding claimed to reduce interior temperatures by up to 20 degrees and advanced body insulation, the Forvision’s thin ‘e-textile’ seat fabric is lightweight and features “conductive coatings” designed to provide direct heating to the most heat-receptive parts of occupant’s bodies in an energy-efficient manner.

The fabric is also used on interior contact surfaces such as armrests to ensure “body contact points sensitive to the cold are also warmed”.

Technology in the Forvision’s seats run deeper than the upholstery, with weight-saving cushioning foam claimed to provide weight savings of 10 to 20 per cent while enabling varying degrees of firmness to be applied where necessary.

A fleece-like fabric within the seats is also said to offer “passive” climate control and weight-saving benefits compared with mechanically-ventilated alternatives.

All the Forvision’s high-technology that has gone into developing the weight and energy-saving materials and components – some of which Daimler admits are still at the “laboratory stage” – have largely been designed with efficient and cost-effective mass-production in mind.

For example, the carbon-fibre reinforced epoxy resin used in the doors has short hardening times.

The Forvision’s styling represents a development of the Forspeed roadster concept unveiled at Geneva in March, the eyelash/afterburner style tail lights, three-spoke wheel design and perforated bodywork forming the front grille being carried over.

The reshaped headlights encircled by yellow daytime running lights lend the Forvision a feline face, a theme carried over by the hexagonal transparent tiles contrasting against the bronze roof resulting in leapord-like spots, an effect replicated by rubber “nubs” on some interior surfaces.

The carbon-fibre reinforced epoxy resin of the doors enables a one-piece design with integrated handle and a polygonal surface texture that continues on their interior panels – which are illuminated by blue LEDs that “guide the driver with a light animation running from the outside to the inside when the door is opened and closed”.

Like Geneva’s Smart Forspeed concept, white dominates the Forvision’s interior décor, highlighted by bronze accents that match the car’s roof and trademark Tridion safety cell.

Unlike the Forspeed, which featured a dashboard-integrated iPhone, the Forspeed has a bespoke driver interface onto which the instruments and other functions are projected and becomes semi-transparent when the car is switched off.

No details of the Forvision’s electric drivetrain have yet been announced. But the Forspeed closely followed the specifications of the contemporary production ForTwo EV and had a claimed battery range of 135km from its 16.5kWh lithium-ion battery and 30kW motor with additional 5kW ‘overboost’ providing brisk acceleration from 0-60km/h in 5.5 seconds on the way to a 120km/h maximum.

As GoAuto reported last month, Smart has since announced a revised electric drivetrain for its third-generation ForTwo ED that eschews the Tesla-sourced components in favour of a 55kW Bosch motor and Deutsche ACCUmotive battery pack with a 17.6kWh capacity, resulting in improved performance (0-60km/h acceleration time reduced by 1.5 seconds to 5.0 seconds and top speed increased 20km/h to 120km/h) and a range boosted from 115km to 140km.

The improved electric ForTwo is confirmed for right-hand drive production, meaning it could come to Australia but Smart’s senior manager of corporate communications in Australia, David McCarthy, told GoAuto there were still price hurdles to overcome.

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