Lifestyle

Mitsubishi Thinks Small with New Hybrid


Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) used the NAIAS to unveil the Concept-CT yesterday, a groundbreaking concept for a hybrid-powered small car that may influence future development of Mitsubishi models. The key to the Concept-CT's roomy packaging, performance potential and fuel efficiency is the Mitsubishi In-wheel Electric Vehicle (MIEV) hybrid powertrain, which employs an electric motor in each of the vehicle's four wheels. The ultra-compact four-door hatchback combines practicality, fun-to-drive performance and low fuel consumption.

"The Concept-CT is a breakthrough vehicle that demonstrates how Mitsubishi might interpret its 'Driven to Thrill' core philosophy with the increasing demands for higher fuel efficiency and environmental compatibility," said MMNA President and CEO Rich Gilligan. "We are carefully studying ideas showcased in this innovative concept car."

Although clearly echoing the Mitsubishi "DNA" also seen in the high-performance Concept X from the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, the Concept-CT's sharp, expressive lines are intended to convey a more casual performance character. The overall design theme was inspired by the sleek high-performance scooters popular in Japanese urban centers - and gaining popularity in the United States.

The Concept-CT's 102.4-inch wheelbase falls between today's sub-compact and compact models. However, the 149.6-inch length makes the Concept-CT even better suited to congested urban environments. The long wheelbase relative to vehicle length, combined with 20-inch wheels that are thrust out to the corners, yields a stable, forceful stance while maximizing interior space. Candy yellow-orange paint, with copper and grey accents, underscores the Concept-CT's advanced powertrain and overall futuristic orientation.

Unique design elements combine high-tech style with function. The LED head lamps and tail lamps are designed to appear as if their light emanates from a single source rather than multiple bulbs. A large, wraparound panoramic windshield provides excellent front visibility.

The rear doors open butterfly-style without a center pillar to provide maximum interior access. Also contributing to the design's practicality, the rear hatch is split horizontally, featuring an upper glass hatch and a lower tail gate for ease of loading.

New Vehicle Architecture Shows Future Possibilities for Small Cars

Early on, the Mitsubishi Concept-CT designers disregarded current vehicle architecture and created a whole new type of small car platform that could take full advantage of the MIEV powertrain's numerous benefits. A rear-midship layout places the gasoline engine behind the rear passengers but ahead of the rear axle line. This same configuration can be found in some of the world's best sports cars because it allows for optimum weight distribution, low center of gravity and a small yaw-inertia moment (quick steering response).

With room freed up by the lack of a center differential, driveshaft to the front and front-wheel halfshafts, designers were able to locate vital components to optimize both safety and weight distribution. The rear-midship layout allows for a large frontal crush zone and greatly reduces the potential for engine intrusion into the cabin in a collision. Batteries are housed under the rear floor and in the front of the vehicle. The fuel tank is housed under the front floor.

The MIEV system provides both economical cruising capability and high capacity power for short bursts of acceleration when needed. A regenerative brake system captures energy that would otherwise be lost as heat through the brake discs and channels it to the batteries.

Each of the Concept-CT's wheels houses an electric motor, effectively providing computer-controlled all-wheel drive (AWD) that can transfer optimal traction independently to each tire as needed. Such individual wheel control opens up new possibilities to enhance vehicle stability and performance.

In addition to a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain featured in the Concept-CT, MIEV technology can be applied to pure battery electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles to suit a wide variety of world market needs and infrastructures in the future. Mitsubishi is testing a MIEV powertrain in the Lancer Evo MIEV rally car acclaimed at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show as an environmentally conscious, high-performance vehicle.

Adventurous Yet Practical Interior

The Concept-CT interior design is as adventurous as the exterior, starting with structural elements that also serve as design elements. The main controls take inspiration from motorcycle front forks and controls and are supported by a structure fashioned in parallel strips. For a clean, modern image, the interior features pearl finish, ribbed vinyl and soft-touch surfaces with copper accents.

The Concept-CT instrument panel is unlike anything seen in current vehicles. A wide format "wall to wall" screen displays information for navigation, rear/side-view mirror functions, and entertainment functions (when in park). Flat-screen gauges are placed well forward of the driver for optimal visibility. In addition, a flat screen in the center panel displays climate control and audio information. Reflecting Concept-CT's futuristic theme, the ultra-thin center console houses a fingerprint-reading security key and computer touch pad interface.

A flat floor and "floating" seats for four provide an open feeling and interior flexibility. The contoured bench-style seats are designed for superior support while providing ease of entry and egress. The front passenger seatback and rear seatbacks fold flat to carry long loads. Rear seat cushions fold up with the seatback in the upright position to load tall items through the side doors. Concept-CT provides additional storage under the front hood.

This concept provides a vision into the future of advanced hybrid technology in a fun and futuristic design. Mitsubishi Motors' Lancer Evolution MIEV is currently under testing in Japan - with a goal to bring a MIEV model, built around core technologies of in-wheel motors and high density lithium-ion batteries, to market by 2010.

MIEV Powertrain Hints at High-Tech Mitsubishi Future

Mitsubishi is actively developing its MIEV technology to address future demands for improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, without sacrificing driving performance and fun. The series/parallel hybrid drive in the Concept-CT uses a special transmission to harness the 50 kW (67 horsepower) output of a 1.0-liter three-cylinder gasoline engine to drive the rear wheels and the generator. Engine power is 20kW per wheel. A 40 kW (54 horsepower) generator charges high-energy-density, lithium-ion batteries to offer high capacity and long life. Total combined peak power is 100kW (134 horsepower).


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