Among the plethora of alternatively powered vehicles on the Hyundai stand in Geneva was the i-flow, the Korean company’s latest concept vehicle, and one that fits into the European D-segment-sized offerings.
Much of the talk from company execs at the show was related to the car providing hints of what the production version could look like through Hyundai’s use of its “fluidic sculpture” design language. But the real story lay underneath those flowing lines, and at the company’s first diesel-hybrid combination powertrain.
The engine featured on the car is a version of the company’s new 1.7-L diesel U2 engine that uses twin-stage turbocharging. Although no one at Hyundai would confirm the output of the engine, they didn’t deny that it could be beyond 200 bhp (149 kW). This unit works with lithium-polymer battery technology, but again the company was staying tight lipped about the power output of the pack.
Looking for “new thinking” for the car, Hyundai turned to BASF for a development partner on the project. One of the main areas that the supplier contributed to the i-flow was in the use of innovative materials that Hyundai had not previously considered.
The seats are formed of BASF’s Steron, which was used after advanced stress analysis identified unnecessary mass areas that could be reduced to better optimize the weight of the seats. Elsewhere on the interior, the upper dashboard has been treated with Elastoskin, providing a “sophisticated shimmering finish,” according to the automotive supplier.
The innovative engine helps the car to emit just 85 g/km of CO2, a figure achieved by a number of means. The first innovation that benefits emissions is thermal engine encapsulation, with BASF, together with Hyundai engineers, developing their own way of achieving the necessary targets. Ensuring the engine reaches optimum operating temperature more quickly, it retains that temperature for up to 14 h. During the i-flow’s development, engineers achieved a combined fuel and emissions saving of 5% in the summer and 9% during winter evaluations.
Further benefits derived from the BASF collaboration were gained through thermoelectric waste heat recovery. A thermoelectric generator, fitted to the exhaust manifold, recaptures energy from the exhaust gases and converts it into electrical energy that is used to help power the vehicle’s auxiliary systems. The process helps to achieve a 5% drop in fuel consumption, while Hyundai claims that half the electrical energy used at 80 km/h (50 mph)—250 W—can be recovered by the generator.
For the car’s exterior, BASF’s Coating division has developed Liquid Metal, a product that, according to Hyundai, has “the appearance of a glossy skin.” Elsewhere, semi-transparent, dye-sensitized solar panels have been used on the roof, which again can help store valuable power that can be used when on the move.
Design elements, as well as carefully engineered components, have helped the car achieve a drag coefficient of 0.25.