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BW Businessworld

Joining The Alternative Train

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Pie-in-the-sky prototypes, or concepts, are out; reality is in. The Geneva Motor Show's concept cars lived up to this trend, with most of them looking like the real thing, and not like alien craft. Here are a few promising ones.
Call it the King Kong of electric cars. Luxury car maker Rolls-Royce showcased an electric concept of the massive Phantom in Geneva, called Phantom 102EX. And to move this beauty, Rolls-Royce claims to have put in it the world's largest passenger car battery — a 71-kwH lithium-nickel-cobalt-manganese-oxide battery pack, a variant of the prevalent lithium-ion batteries. On a single charge, this mega battery can move the car up to a distance of 200 km! The company says the 102EX is only the start of an exploration into alternative technologies, and it will wait for customer feedback before chalking out a plan of action.

Another UK luxury car maker, Land Rover (now owned by Tatas), showed off a concept diesel-electric hybrid SUV called Range_e. Based on the Range Rover Sport, the concept uses a 3-litre diesel engine and a 69-kw electric motor. On electric power alone, the Range_e can travel more than 20 miles (32 km). And yes, like a true Land Rover, this one, too, is a 4-wheel-drive with all associated offroading paraphernalia. Range_e will serve as the test car for the first diesel-electric hybrid from the company's stable in 2013.

And finally, there's the Active E concept from BMW, which is also electric. The German car maker, which is running a programme to create a megacity vehicle (MCV) based on electric technology, has based this concept on the 1 series coupe. Sporting a lithium-ion battery developed specially for this model, the Active E runs 160 km on a single charge with a top speed of approximately 145 kmph. You might, of course, happen to come across a test model of the Active E on the roads sometime this year in the US, Europe or China as BMW is producing more than 1,000 test units of the Active E concept for use by fleet owners and select private car owners. Their feedback will be incorporated in the production programme of the MCV, which BMW will launch under a new sub-brand in 2013.

THE ROYAL FEEL: Phantom 102EX has the largest car battery (left), THE MEGA CONCEPT: The Active E is based on the 1 series coupe

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 21-03-2011)