Infiniti's EMERG-E concept car was one of the styling hits of the 2012 Geneva auto show earlier this year. But at that time it was simply a styling exercise.
Not any more. A fully-functional version of the EMERG-E made its first public appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (June 28 - July 1) in England.
"Normally these motorshow concepts have a small electric motor fitted in them, just enough to move them on and off the stand," said Jerry Hardcastle, Vice-President Vehicle Design and Development, the Nissan Group Technology Centre Europe and Chairman of the UK's Automotive Council.
"We said, how about putting a real car under there and showing what it would look like as a running vehicle," he explained, "and at the same time use this collaboration of UK companies to demonstrate the UK's capability in this area."
The running vehicle was created by Infiniti in conjunction with the UK Government's Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and partners Lotus Engineering, NTCE, CGI, EVO, Xtrac and a number of UK-based specialist technology leaders, EMERG-E.
The advanced technology showcased in Infiniti EMERG-E draws on the knowledge of suppliers beyond Infiniti's usual supplier base in the quest to uncover the most innovative hardware and technical know-how today.
"This is a collaboration of UK companies in order to demonstrate low carbon vehicle potential," continued Hardcastle. "We took a Lotus Evora platform and together with Lotus we replaced their standard powertrain with a new range-extender electric version, specially developed for EMERG-E. It's a stunning looking car and it just shows that an electric car doesn't have to be boring."
The Infiniti EMERG-E is said to provide a fresh expression of Infiniti's design language applied to a high performance, mid-ship sports car for the first time.
"Infiniti has a good knowledge of hybrid technology as we are already providing this to the market right now," explained Francois Bancon, Division General Manager of Exploratory and Advanced Product. "But this is about changing the rules of the game. This is a new way of thinking about the sports car of the future."
The demonstrator car remains true to the spirit and inspiration of the original concept car. Twin electric motors generate 402 horsepower, supporting acceleration from 0-96 km/h in just four seconds – and from zero to more than 200 km/h in a single, seamless 30 second burst.
It also operates as zero emission urban transport over a 48-km range. When the range-extender gasoline engine kicks in, in concert with its twin electric motors, it produces a CO2 output of only 55g/km over a 480-km range.
The electric motors transfer power via a single speed (XTRAC) transmission to create what is effectively an open differential, significantly reducing driveline friction losses.
A quartet of inverters controls the motors and their energy regeneration under braking. The recovered power is directed to a lithium-ion battery mounted behind the seats.
The battery can be recharged from the power grid (domestic or fast-charge) and stores sufficient energy to propel the car for 48 urban kilometres, at which point the on-board gasoline engine starts up to act as a generator.
This light, ultra-compact, Lotus Engineered three-cylinder 1.2-liter 35kW engine has been purpose-designed for its range-extending role. It operates between crank speeds of 1500-4000 rpm, producing peak power at only 3500rpm.
The program is a process of continual learning, Infiniti says, and already there have been fundamental improvements crucial to the success of the running prototypes.
"If you notice, the concept car doesn't have a spoiler," said Hardcastle. "We added the spoiler onto the cars because we needed to balance the front and rear lift of the car. The spoiler was therefore specifically designed to be purely functional as opposed to being added just for design purposes."
Further, he explained, "In EMERG-E, we're trying to study and investigate and showcase two things: one is the potential of a mid-engine sportscar for the Infiniti range, and the second is of a new range-extended powertrain."
It also explores various light-weighting technologies. With an aluminum chassis and carbon fibre body, which provides a 20-percent strength-gain in tandem with a 50-percent reduction in weight compared to the sheet molded composite often used in sports car construction, the car weighs in at the just 1598 kg.
"If you make a lightweight car, whatever powertrain you use, it will have lower CO2," said Hardcastle.
Don't expect to see the EMERG-E in production any time soon, if ever. But don't be surprised to see some of its character and characteristics make it to the floor of your local Infiniti store.