Frankfurt 2009: all plugs and hybrids, no hydrogen

It's probable that, somewhere in the Frankfurt Messe this week, there are hydrogen-powered concept vehicles. From the headlines, though, it's clear that the world's automakers showing off their wares at the Frankfurt Motors Show are taking some time off from promoting the hydrogen fuel cell car and are putting all of their energy into the idea of a car with a plug. Even Audi, where an executive recently called electric cars "idiotic," made a big splash with their overwhelming e-tron concept. Perhaps we'll see more H2 cars when the auto show season moves back to the U.S., but for now, the lack of fuel cell concepts and the tiny scraps thrown to biofuels are really, really obvious. Just saying.

In any case, if you're headed to Frankfurt and want to print out a list of which plug-in and hybrid cars are where, you can get a PDF listing the cars from Drive Solar.

Drew Barrymore first to race Ford Focus EV on Leno's new show

Apparently, electric cars are for girls. For his new prime-time TV show, Jay Leno is going to pit celebrities against one another in his new Green Car Challenge segment and the first one in the driver's seat will be Drew Barrymore. Barrymore will get behind the wheel of a prototype Ford Focus EV this Friday. Following Barrymore's initial time trial, Leno will rope other stars into racing the sponsored Focus on a special track built outside the show's new studio once or twice a week.

For Ford, the tremendous publicity of getting celebs into their upcoming electric vehicle – which is due on the market in 2011 – is a tremendous coup. Nancy Gioia, director of hybrid vehicle programs for Ford, told USAToday that the Leno tie will go a big way in making EVs seem normal. "If (electric cars are) only seen as quirky or off the beaten path, it's really hard to get people" excited, she said.

GM's Rob Peterson sees a benefit to all automakers who are bringing an EV to market. "If we walked into the showroom in 2011 with very little lead time, some segments of the population would have a tough time understanding what these vehicles can do," he said. Instead, we'll have two years of YouTube clips of famous people saying "oh, it's so quiet" to get everyone ready.

Hyundai ix35 at 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show

Hyundai is introducing the "i" naming scheme to its SUV/ CUV segment with the new ix35 which was revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In all world markets except for South Korea and North America the Tucson-replacement will be known by its new name ix35.

Styling has moved away from the box-shape off-road look towards a sleeker exterior design. The car has more room and luxurious appointments than ever before. The new front grille will help define the look of future Hyundai family products. Looks are enhanced by an aggressive belt line, rear spoiler and optional 225/55 R18 wheels. Kudos to Hyundai for bringing the car so soon after its ix-onic concept form was revealed at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show.

Passengers will benefit from things like the long dual-panel panoramic sunroof with UV blocking, the USB/aux jack for music, the 3.5-inch colour LCD, Push Button start with smart-key proximity sensor and a cooled glove box.

The ix35 will be offered with a number of engines depending on the region. The two petrols are the Theta-II 2.0 rated at 120kW (163hp) and 197Nm of torque. It emits 178g/km in C02 gases. The Gamma 1.6 GDI delivers 103kW (140hp) and peak torque of 167Nm, with C02 emissions of 165g/km (4WD MT), and 158g/km (2WD MT) respectively.

Diesels come in the form of the new R 2.0 worth 135kW and (184hp) and 392Nm and a low version of 100kW (136hp) and 320Nm. The second, called the U-II 1.7 will have output of 85kW (115hp) and torque of 255Nm.

A 6-speed manual gearbox is fitted as standard while the in-house developed 6-speed automatic with Shiftronic is optional on some models. Suspension is a MacPherson strut-based system at the front while the rear uses a multi-link layout.

Hyundai will begin production at the end of the year and sales will commence in certain markets during the first quarter of 2010.

Hyundai ix-Metro Concept at 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show

Hyundai lifted the curtain on their latest creation, the Hyundai ix-Metro concept, at the Frankfurt Motor Show earlier today. The car has suicide doors on both sides, to make it easier for passengers to get in and out of the small, urban car.

If you think the interior looks a bit space-age, then Hyundai accomplished their goal. The cabin is modeled after the "protective capsule" concept, incorporating the console, dash, doors, and seats. “For thematic inspiration interior designers took a cue from the humble pine cone and its natural, elegant fragmentation of a spherical object,” Interior Design Manager Sandy Hartono said in a press release. Hyundai was a tad unoriginal in using pale blue mood lighting inside. This color choice also makes it on to the OEL information display in the center. Sideview mirrors are replaced with cameras, but we could not figure out where the cameras' images are projected..

The exterior of the vehicle was meant to be inspired by the American space program, and classic sci-fi movies. Designed in white and black, the vehicle is meant to look like a spacecraft. Unfortunately, it looks a bit more on the obnoxious side. Still, the use of triangular lines is interesting, and worthy of future use in a redux.

With no b-pillars, visibility is improved. Engineers designed the car's ground clearance, and the driver's seating position, to further decrease blindspots. Stability control, anti-lock brakes, and four airbags would all be standard safety features on the vehicle.

Hyundai's study uses a 1.0-liter GDI turbocharged engine, paired to a six-speed dual clutch transmission, that produces 123 horsepower. Weighing in at a scant 950kg the vehicle manages an impressive 3.3-liters of fuel consumption per 100 kilometers. This also helps the car's cleanliness: the vehicle puts out 80 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

The Hyundai ix-Metro concept will be on the Hyundai stage for the duration of the Frankfurt show.

Wiesmann Roadster MF5 Revealed

Wiesmann has officially taken the wraps off their exclusive MF5 Roadster.

While details are limited, the retro-inspired drop top features a white and red paint scheme, an "old-school" convertible roof, and an extendable rear wing.

Packing BMW's 5.0-liter V10 engine, which produces 507 hp and 520 Nm of torque, the MF5 Roadster accelerates from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds. If you keep your foot planted, you'll eventually top out at 310 km/h (193 mph).

Production will be limited to 55 units, and prices start at €189,500 ($278,108 USD).

In other news, Wiesmann will build a GT MF4 coupe at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The car will be completed on the last day of the show (September 27th),

Automotive Industry Affected By Asbestos Exposure

The health risks associated with working in the automotive industry were emphasized by a recent asbestos-related case in the United Kingdom. This case follows a previous suit involving Kelvin Parker, a former installer of insulation and suspended ceilings at the Longbridge manufacturing plant.

Parker, 54, was first diagnosed with mesothelioma in August 2007 and passed away on November 19, 2008. His family pursued legal action against the company responsible for his asbestos exposure.

Asbestos exposure is the primary cause of mesothelioma, a rare cancer that typically develops in the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen. In most cases, the victims are unaware of their condition until symptoms occur and the cancer has already reached the latest stages of development, leaving the patient with a poor prognosis.
The latest asbestos case involves another man who was a former employee at the Longbridge site in Birmingham, England during the early 1960s.

This employee is seeking damages for developing malignant mesothelioma and is looking for witnesses who may have worked at the site around the same time. The man’s lawyer said, “We have got a client who was exposed to asbestos dust and we are looking for witnesses. But this issue isn’t one that’s particular to one person. There could be hundreds of other people who are at risk.”

Asbestos has been utilized for decades by the automotive industry in products like brake pads and linings, clutch facings, valves and gaskets. Vehicles manufactured today are still built with asbestos brakes and clutches, just in smaller quantities than older parts.

Microscopic asbestos fibers that have been disturbed have the potential to stay in the air for a long period of time. The long duration of airborne asbestos fibers not only creates an immediate hazard, but increases the danger of workers inhaling the toxic particles even several days afterward.

Automotive mechanics are one of the main occupations still affected by asbestos exposure. Working on cars that contain older parts creates a constant risk and protective gear is rarely worn to prevent exposure.