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Holden unveils ECOmmodore

Hyper-hybrid: Holden's ECOmmodore can pull more than its good looks with its 150kW powerplant and 800km range.

An advanced prototype Commodore that halves fuel consumption without a performance penalty has been unveiled in Sydney

24 May 2000

HOLDEN has unveiled its hybrid electric-powered ECOmmodore, the car that will silently lead the opening 70km stage of the Olympic torch relay from Uluru, central Australia, on June 8.

The one-off technological showcase was developed by Holden, the CSIRO and 26 domestic component suppliers. It is intended to demonstrate what is realistically available with existing technology.

The car uses a General Motors Family II, 95kW, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol engine from the Vectra and is mated to a 50kW electric motor charged by lead acid batteries backed up by super-capacitors.

Where a standard V6 Commodore produces 304Nm of torque at 4000rpm, the hybrid makes 290Nm at 4000rpm but has 100Nm of torque on trap from rest, courtesy of the electric motor.

Drive is to the front wheels via a five-speed manual box, a first for a Commodore.

Holden says the ECOmmodore would provide similar performance to a standard V6 petrol engined version but has not rated acceleration against the clock just yet.

The concept is designed to show how fuel consumption could be almost halved and emission levels cut to 10 per cent of a regular Commodore, while maintaining the virtues of an Australian-made full-size family car that suffers no cut in performance.

Holden estimates the 45-litre fuel tank would offer a range of 800km.

There are no plans to build the hybrid car commercially at present but in volume production would carry about a $3000 premium at the factory door, said the executive director of the Australian Automotive Technology Center at the CSIRO, Mr David Lamb.

He says commercial and public acceptance of a hybrid car is still some years away and building a car such as this for sale would take about eight years.

Mr Lamb said that in eight year's time fuel cell-powered vehicles may be widely available, but they would still be far more expensive to buy than a petrol-electric hybrid.

The hybrid electric system on the ECOmmodore is so advanced components of it are protected by almost a dozen patents.

Mr Lamb said projects such as the ECOmmodore were vital for Australia's car-making future since overseas car-makers were developing alternative fuel systems and these cars would one day arrive in Australia.

He said it was important for Australia to develop affordable hybrid technology.

The director of engineering for Holden, Mr Tony Hyde, said Holden's involvement in the project was part of its move to becoming a more niche-driven manufacturer.

Holden is soon to sell its Commodore Coupe and is openly working on a multi-passenger people-mover for sale within four years.

The Commodore shell has been significantly redesigned to save weight and cut aerodynamic drag.

A VT Series II Commodore has a coefficient of drag of about 0.32 while the hybrid electric ECOmmodore slips through the air with a drag rating of 0.28.

Regenerative braking helps conserve energy and lightweight materials also contribute to efficient running.

Changes to the frontal area as well as a significantly lowered roof and reshaped tail help cut the drag figure, as do specially imported low rolling resistance, low profile 165/55 Dunlop tyres riding on 18-inch, five-spoke, ROH alloy wheels.

The sedan has a longer wheelbase but shorter overhangs than a showroom Commodore. It weighs about 1700kg, slightly more than a standard road-going car, despite the weight savings effected by Holden's engineers.

Mr Hyde said the weight saving efficiencies developed for the ECOmmodore were likely to be the most quickly adopted for regular production vehicles.

Inside the ECOmmodore there are new lightweight seats and plastic windows, as well as an extruded aluminium floor bonded to the chassis.

Holden estimates that in the past two years it has spent only about $200,000 on the vehicle, building the one-off body and assembling two prototypes.

The first car was based around a station wagon body to allow engineers more room to locate components.

The ECOmmodore will be the centrepiece of an environmental display at the "green games" during the Sydney Olympics.

Following the conclusion of the games, it is expected to be sent around Australia and the world as a showcase of Australian engineering ingenuity.

A berth at the prestigious Detroit Automobile show in January next year on the GM stand should not be ruled out.

"The ECOmmodore is a recognition of the increasing influence that social and environmental issues are bringing to bear on the uptake of new technologies," said Holden chief executive Mr Peter Hanenberger in a prepared statement.

"While the ECOmmodore is not a prototype for the next model Commodore, it provides our engineers with a hands-on learning tool to experiment with emerging technologies that will be incorporated into Holden vehicles in coming decades."

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