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First look: Suzuki unveils Swift plug-in hybrid

Extra Swift: Suzuki has added a hybrid powertrain to its Swift for the Tokyo show.

Suzuki’s Tokyo show stars include plug-in Swift and new (but Japan-only) Alto

Suzuki logo5 Oct 2009

By TERRY MARTIN

SUZUKI Motor Corporation has taken the wraps off a plug-in hybrid version of its Swift small car ahead of its world premiere at the Tokyo motor show later this month.

Under the theme ‘Small Cars for a Big Future’, Suzuki will also unveil a near-production ‘concept’ version of the Alto, which is described as an all-new model and emerges just 10 weeks after the sub-light car was launched in Australia.

However, Suzuki Australia has told GoAuto this week that the Alto redesign will be exclusive to the Japanese domestic market, leaving the Swift plug-in hybrid as the model with the most intrigue and potential for sale in Australia.

While it is still to be confirmed for production, the plug-in Swift proves that the Japanese manufacturer is well advanced on a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, which in this application combines a 660cc combustion engine with a 54kW electric motor that draws its charge from a bank of lithium-ion batteries under the centre console between the front seats.

30 center imageFrom top: The Suzuki Alto Concept, Suzuki SX4 FCV, Suzuki MIO.

Designed as a ‘range extender’ like General Motors’ forthcoming Chevrolet/Holden Volt rather than a conventional hybrid, the eco Swift is an urban commuter that relies primarily on its electric motor, with the petrol engine acting as a generator and extending the all-electric range – limited to 20km – as required.

Recharging can take place at a standard domestic power outlet, although recharging times and other technical details are still to be divulged.

Apart from the powertrain, the plug-in Swift varies from the conventional version with unique alloy wheels, revised headlights and, inside, lightweight driver and front passenger seats and a clear window across the centre console to view the battery pack.

Suzuki has provided few other details at this stage of either the plug-in Suzuki or the redesigned Alto, but the first photographs of the latter show a subtle reworking of the exterior and a substantial overhaul to the cabin.

The Japanese manufacturer also claims to have made a “concerted effort” to improve the Alto’s performance and reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Other highlights on the Suzuki stand will be the SX4-FCV fuel cell vehicle, which was unveiled at the Paris motor show in August 2008 and is now being tested on public roads – with a view to commercialisation – and a methanol-powered electric wheelchair dubbed the MIO. A hydrogen-powered Burgman scooter will also be shown.

As we saw in Paris, the SX4-FCV is equipped with a GM-supplied high-performance fuel cell stack, a Suzuki-developed 70MPa hydrogen tank and a light, compact capacitor. The vehicle has a fuel cell output of 80kW and an electric motor output of 68kW. Maximum speed is 150km/h, with an operating range of 250km.

The MIO wheelchair is powered by a small direct-methanol fuel cell stack rather than by a conventional lead-acid battery. Suzuki explains that the methanol solution is held in a cartridge-type bottle that is easy to replace, giving users “extra freedom” as well as the means to ensure they will not run out of fuel on the road.

“Suzuki is committed to exploring alternative-fuel technologies and are excited to offer a glimpse at the future of environmental motoring,” said Suzuki Australia General Manager Tony Devers.

“These concepts are an embodiment of the unique spirit and technological prowess that have made Suzuki the leading name in compact vehicle design and production.”

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