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4-Focus – Innovations from Polestar, Vauxhall, Hyundai and Ford

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POLESTAR – EXPENSIVE FOR SURE BUT THE FUTURE OF CAR INTERIORS LIES HERE

You will have spotted the TV series ‘idents’ created by Volvo, in which children are clearing the beaches of old corks, plastic bottles and discarded fishing nets. Polestar, although separate from Volvo, is also funded by the Zhejiang Geely Holdings company, in China. Ingeniously, it is using its high cost, electrified brand to promote a development channel for a new type of upholstery, which aims to reduce weight, remove new plastic content, lessen waste and also introduce innovative and sustainable natural (flax, which does not impact on food crops) and recycled resources. Renault and Tesla have both beaten Polestar to market with their recycled plastic woven and moulded materials but the Sino-Swedish company is being more specific about its intentions. A new 3-D texture, single- thread knit produced entirely from PET plastics (like a Coke bottle) is produced exactly to trim size and without wasteful cut-offs, by subsidiary company, Bcomp.

Recycled Nylon-6 that constitutes most fishing nets is woven into carpets and door cards. Polestar is working with both wine cork suppliers and incorporating cork industry waste, as well as recycling discarded cork, into its dashboard mouldings and even veneer trim. Most importantly for a carmaker wishing to maintain a high-quality image, the finishes achieved with the end products sacrifice neither design, nor luxury and both look and feel modern, while gifting a fresh definition to automotive interior design. Bcomp will roll out mass-market materials in the future, in which other manufacturers will be able to make technological and ecological investments. Bcomp hopes that it will have greater success than VW experienced with the slow uptake rate of ‘slush-moulding’ technology.

VAUXHALL OPENS UNIQUE LIGHT VAN 4X4 NICHE USING DANGEL HARDWARE

Established in north-eastern France a quarter of a century ago, Automobiles Dangel produces both all-wheel-drive conversions and complete vehicles for some carmakers, including PSA Groupe. As the first and only, proper 4×4 version of the Vauxhall Combo, the company’s practical light commercial model, customers will have to decide on their priorities, as prices start at a whopping £34,660 plus VAT, which is twice the price of the standard van and significantly costlier than some SUVs. Yet, the van benefits from an uncompromising, up to 205mm ground clearance, underbody armouring for the drivetrain, fuel tank and rear axle, and up to 130bhp from its 1.5 litre turbodiesel engine. Both steering and suspension aspects have been redesigned and strengthened by Dangel to suit off-road demands.

Abbreviated frontal and rear overhangs assist with excellent approach (26.6 degrees) and departure (38.3 degrees) angles, while the obstacle breakover point (26 degrees) is aided by the use of the short-wheelbase platform. The Combo 4×4 can climb 41.0 degrees gradients. For ease of driving, a simple rotary dial adjacent to the 6-speed manual gearstick provides two driving modes: Auto 4WD and Eco 2WD. As a torque sensitive design, the Combo transfers engine power to the rear axle, as soon as it detects slip at the front. In ‘Eco’ mode, the 4×4 system is locked out, which reduces fuel consumption, emissions and tyre wear. For really arduous conditions, the same dial can click onto a ‘R-Lock’ setting that locks the rear differential. PSA will be hoping that the Dangel hardware is up to heavy-duty demands, which could harm its reputation otherwise.

HYUNDAI – ‘PREDICTIVE TEXT’ FOR CAR TRANSMISSIONS

Much of today’s and tomorrow’s ADAS technology is aimed at ‘removing’ the human elements of driving, to reduce the possibilities of something going awry and causing a road traffic incident. While not exactly ‘new’, as BMW was first to market with technology that linked steering and gearboxes to sat-nav, refining the systems with greater precision has been made possible with the loosening of GPS regulations. Hyundai-Kia is soon to launch its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Connected Shift System, which enables up to 8-speed automatic transmissions to change to an optimal gear ratio, after amassing information on both road and traffic conditions ahead.

ICT uses intelligent software in the transmission control unit that collects and interprets real- time input from underlying technologies, including 3-D nav, cameras and radar for smart cruise control. The introduction of AI and integration with 5G will enable a significant amount of geographical learning, as well as car-to-car feedback, to bolster information and build more concise pictures. Intriguingly, in a long slow-down scenario, where a throttle-off situation may be introduced by the driver, the ICT will use a transmission clutch to engage neutral, to reduce fuel consumption. Exhaustive testing on twisty roads around both the UK and Europe has revealed that the system can reduce shift frequency by 43% and brake operation by up to 11%. When joining motorways, the ICT engages Sport mode automatically to aid safe merging with traffic, reverting to original mode once settled.

FORD-MOUNTUNE – THE DAYS OF ECU ‘FLASH’ UPGRADES ARE NOT OVER

Ford Motor Company has a long-standing relationship with Essex-based tuning firm, Mountune. For the past few years, it has developed a range of tuning kits for Ford’s Mk8 Fiesta ST and Focus ST models, for customers demanding ‘a little extra urge’. In its most spirited but standard form, the 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol Fiesta produces a healthy 197bhp. Spending £575 extra (inc. VAT) introduces the Mountune smartflash M235 upgrade kit, which can be self-fitted by any moderately skilled DIY mechanic. More importantly, if installed by a dealer within period, the original manufacturer’s warranty is unaffected.

The resultant increase in broad power (+36bhp) and a flatter torque curve results in greater responsiveness and a non-peaky conversion, which is centred around the Mountune induction kit (pictured) that delivers a 1.5kpa pressure drop, to allow the turbo engine to breathe more efficiently. Additional benefits include a more aggressive launch control, more audible exhaust note in Sport/Track modes and an optimised ‘flat-shift’ facility for the gearbox (which means that there is no need to lift off the accelerator, or dip the clutch pedal, for the speediest of gearchanges). The kit is available for both Android and Apple phone users, using a supplied OBD interface, which also opens the door to future calibration upgrades and incorporates a handy VIN and calibration ID reader as standard. Incidentally, although there is a three-position switchability – stock, performance and anti-theft – no changes are made to the CO2 rating of the engine, in case anything should go wrong.

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