Monday, 26 September 2011

Does the Future Belongs to Small Cars and 'Microcars'

Its time to sign up to weight watchers in the name of saving the planet..

Opel Zafira Tourer compact van, as well as new generations of the Porsche 911 sportscar, the BMW 1 Series, the Honda Civic, the Fiat Panda and the Toyota Yaris.

The future, it seems, belongs to small cars. "In western Europe the small car segment has grown from 30 percent in 1990 to 43.5 percent in 2010," says Professor Stefan Bratzel, an auto expert at the Center for Automotive Management. "We forecast the share to rise to around 45 percent by 2015."

While small cars are becoming ever more popular, comfortable and high-spec, a new species of car is emerging from below: so-called microcars. The vehicles of this type being shown in Frankfurt are all still studies, but microcars like the Audi Urban Concept, VW Nils or a minimalist Opel two seater vehicle, reported to be called Rak-E, are aimed at safeguarding the future of the car in big cities.

The engines of these new vehicles point to the second focus of the Frankfurt Motor Show: electric propulsion. The German Automobile Industry Association (VDA), which organizes the show, has devoted an entire hall to electric mobility. But analysts say the media hype over electric cars is premature, and that the big market breakthrough is still some way off. "We still lack the required jump in battery technology," says Nick Margetts of market research firm Jato Dynamics.

But hybrid models are on the rise. Audi will unveil a version of its A8 luxury limousine with a gasoline-electric engine combination. Experts say so-called plug-in hybrid cars, where the battery can be charged via an ordinary power cable, and range extender models like the Opel Ampera that use a combustion engine as an electricity generator will become increasingly important in coming years. Many manufacturers are showing prototypes with such engine configurations.

I can some people will be resigned to taking the bus to go a get their big mac fix.

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