There are two basic ways to improve fuel economy. The first is to develop a fuel-efficient engine. The second is design a lighter vehicle.
The Smart Forvision concept takes the latter route. Jointly developed by Mercedes’ parent company Daimler and German chemical company BASF, the Forvision showcases a host of technologies that not only might shed pounds off future vehicles, but make them more energy efficient as well.
Tires today are composed primarily of rubber, steel, and aluminum, all which add to a vehicle’s weight. BASF replaces the Smart Forvision’s four tires with all-plastic wheels which shave off nearly 25 pounds. Similar materials called composites replace steel in the Smart Forvision’s chassis to further lighten the concept vehicle. The Smart Forvision also uses special seat foam that is up to 20 percent lighter than traditional materials.
Energy to power things like a vehicle’s air-conditioning can also sap its fuel efficiency. Electric-only vehicles are especially vulnerable. BASF coats the Smart Forvision with a special paint that reflects enough sunlight to lower interior temperatures up to four degrees. The specially treated windows keeping the interior cool by reflecting infrared radiation. Unlike similar systems today, the BASF-developed material is non-metallic, so it won’t interfere with navigation systems, cellphones, or other electronics. The Smart Forvision also uses “e-textiles” fabrics on its seats and other specific touchpoints in the car that warm up when pressed by the human body, further reducing the need for the car heater.
Finally, the Smart Forvision’s roof features solar cells so sensitive to light that they will generate enough electricity, claims Daimler, to power the concept’s infotainment system and three fans under diffuse or poor lighting conditions. The roof also uses transparent organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, that act as both a glass ceiling and dome lighting but consume only 50 percent of the energy of conventional lights.
According to Daimler, the Smart Forvision concept’s technologies could improve fuel efficiency by a substantial 20 percent. Will we see the Smart Forvision or its technology in the near future? The company says the all-plastic tires are production-ready while we can envision the seat foam and e-textiles to follow.
The Smart Forvision will debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show later this month. What do you think of the concept and its technologies? Let us know in the comments below.