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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ford Debuts 'Reflex' Diesel-Electric Hybrid Concept Muscle Car

Ford will unveil its new Reflex diesel-electric hybrid concept muscle car at the North American International Auto Show (Detroit auto show) this month. It will join the growing ranks of exciting new hybrid and electric concepts debuting at the Detroit show including the new 2007 Camry hybrid and Mitsubishi MIEV Concept-CT discussed earlier here at WattHead.

Looking a bit like the non-hybrid Iosis concept unvieled last year at the 2005 Frankfurt Auto Show (at least on the exterior), Ford hopes that the Reflex will be one of the stars of the Detroit show and will make the case that small cars can be bold, American and innovative.

And innovative the Reflex is. According to AutoWeek, Reflex features a diesel-electric hybrid system using diesel, electric and solar power. This combination of power can deliver maximum fuel economy – up to 65 mpg, says Ford – without compromising performance.

The front wheels are powered by the diesel-electric hybrid system with the 1.4 liter turbodiesel engine assisted by an electric motor, according to AutoBlog. The rear axle is also powered by an additional electric motor providing this low-slung muscle car with all-wheel-drive capability. I was unable to find any word on the combined horsepower or torque for the Reflex.

The car's electric energy is stored in a new-generation lithium-ion battery pack, rather than the nickle-metal-hydride batteries found in all current commercial hybrid models. According to AutoWeek, Ford was the first manufacturer to produce a vehicle using this type of battery system when it introduced the Ford Ka research vehicle back in 2000. I hope to see Li-ion batteries make their way into production hybrid models soon as their higher energy densities and greater discharge ranges will mean lighter batteries with equal capacity (or larger capacities with equal weights, an important component of plug-in hybrids).

The batteries are charged both by the regenerative braking standard in all hybrids as well as by a pair of solar panels mounted on the roof of the Reflex.

The concept also incorporates ground rubber from scrap athletic shoes, called Nike Grind, as insulation to reduce noise and vibration in the car’s interior, adding to the car's 'green' features.

AutoWeek reports that the interior uses a 2+1 backseat configuration. Gull-wing style doors open upwards to reveal seatts covored by a transparent mesh that offers maximum airflow for comfort and along with the glass roof is supposed to make the interior seem larger than it is. The cockpit also comes alive with keyless activation: at the touch of a button, the instrument cluster controls appear in a blue hue as the light-emitting diodes (LEDs) switch on.

The Reflex's safety features include inflatable safety belts and Ford's 'BeltMinder' for backseat passengers. The inflatable safety belt helps reduce injury risk to second-row occupants and the BeltMinder alerts the driver when second-row occupants are not buckled up.

Now, the Reflex is quite definitely just a PR stunt that will never make it into real production. However, this is the case with most concept cars and it is good to see Ford innovating in this direction for a change. Hopefully some of the components of this car will make it into production models.

I am especially excited to see the incorporation of a diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain and lithium-ion batteries into the Reflex. Both of these technologies should see much wider use in production models. Also, its interesting to see Ford using the solar panels, which are likely the Solartech panels released last year.

Someday in the future we will actually see a hybrid (hopefully plug-in) muscle car on the market. It seems clear to me that trends are clearly headed that direction eventually. In the mean time, we can join Jacob Gordon of Treehugger and drool over this concept car.

[A hat tip to Treehugger. Thanks for a chuckle-filled post, Jacob]


writ of summons said...

I've heard that the diesel-electric hybrid was coming. I guess this is the "Innovation" that Ford has promised. With all the buzz about hybrids, I hope this diesel version will get more people thinking about biodiesel. Anyway, I have a biodiesel blog. Kind of a News digest and other things. Its Interstellar Overdrive. Come check it out. I will do the same with yours. Good luck!

Jesse Jenkins said...

I of course forget to mention that a diesel-electric hybrid can obviously utilize biodiesel blends (at least B20) as well.