Auto Manifesto

November 24, 2008

‘90s Automobile Flashback

Lots of the great ideas being worked on today have been around for some time but generally haven’t seen the light of day due to lack of competitiveness, necessity and consumer interest. That is until fuel prices skyrocketed.

Here are some examples I found while perusing some issues of Automobile Magazine in my collection.

July 1991 (p. 13) - Mid-engine, electric hybrid concept from Audi featuring an aluminum body, 4 wheel steer, all wheel drive, and a twin clutch (PDK via Porsche) transmission described as “the world’s first ecologically relevant sports car.

December 1991 (p. 41) – David E. Davis on the Frankfurt auto show. There were a lot of electric cars present, mostly of the boring commuter type. A lot has changed since then (no available alternative to lead acid battery) but in some ways the challenges remain the same (limited range, battery environmental issues, California pushing legislative mandates). IAD displayed the LA301 a “range extended” vehicle.

Davis quotes Don Runkle (GM VP of Advanced Engineering at the time) as saying the IC engine will be a better deal than electric until gasoline prices nation-wide were at least $1.60. ($2.54 in 2008 adjusted for inflation). Energy density was very low. The GM Impact had 870 pounds of batteries.

In hindsight we see the political compromise resulting in today’s vehicles. CARB’s vision very clearly did not happen by Y2K but we did get hybrids and are now beginning to have choice of a few electric cars on the market.

In the same issue (p. 45) Robert Cumberford covers the Honda Beat, a $10,000 mid-engine, Japanese-market two seat roadster with a 656 cc engine capable of 38 mpg.

Seems like just yesterday.

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