Apr 242011

The world of the eco car continues to expand as yet more mainstream green-motoring alternatives come online. In Thailand, Japanese automaker Nissan has announced that it is to produce an eco car in the SE Asian country for domestic consumption, as well as export to Nissan’s home marker in Japan.

This won’t be the first eco car Nissan manufactures in Thailand. The company’s popular March is already being produced for sale in Thailand, where it is proving popular.

The announcement comes on the back of the Bangkok Motor Show, where thousands of orders were taken for Nissan’s first mass-market electric car. Nissan said that the success of the Nissan March had spurred its interest in producing a second eco-car in Thailand.

An executive at the Thai unit of Nissan said approximately 2,000 of the orders placed for its March during the Bangkok International Motor Show last month would be delayed by about two months. All Japanese automakers, as well as components suppliers in Japan, have had their production hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

Delays caused by closed factories and severe logistics problems following last month’s natural disaster and nuclear accident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant are causing major problems for the world’s automobile industry. Last year, Nissan Thai produced some 80,000 to 90,000 units of Nissan’s March.

The company is expecting to produce a similar number of the all-electric city car this year. Nissan Thai says that production of the second eco-car model will boost overall production of green cars by Nissan in Thailand to roughly 100,000 units.

In total, customers ordered some 3,200 vehicles from Nissan at the Bangkok motor show, which ran for 10 days. This includes 2,000 orders for the delayed March.

Nissan Thai says it is delivering March units ordered before the show. Those orders that were placed during the show, however, could take between one and two months to arrive.

Nissan Leaf - Electric Eco Car (UK)

Nissan Leaf - Electric Eco Car (UK)

Meanwhile, research and development into future eco car technologies continues apace. Already, university teams are fielding entries into eco car competitions that manage incredible fuel-efficiency figures.

One team competing in the Shell Eco-Marathon managed to squeeze more than 2,500 miles out of a single gallon of fuel. The Alerion Supermileage team from Canada’s Laval University absolutely destroyed the second-place team.

The three-wheeled vehicle that won the marathon crossed the finish line having completed 10 laps of the track in Houston for an overall consumption figure of a whopping 2,564.8 miles per gallon.

This was a staggering achievement. The second-place team could only manage 766.1mpg. In fact, the Alerion Supermileage team beat its own record, set last year, by 77mpg.

The ultra light winning car is built from carbon fibre and only travels at 15mph during the eco marathon, so it’s a long way from being a viable means of transport for the average person. Still, it demonstrates quite clearly what can be achieved with ingenuity and science.

Just as the Shell Eco-Marathon ends, another eco-car challenge has launched. EcoCAR 2 is an engineering competition for college students that will run for three years.

EcoCAR 2 is much more representative of the kind of development needed to help more people enjoy environmental motoring. A number of university and college engineering teams are chosen to take part in the challenge, which tests the teams’ ability to make a Chevrolet Malibu as green as possible.

Teams from 16 universities have to try and make the car’s environmental footprint as small as possible without compromising the performance, safety or consumer attractiveness of the car. The challenge was created by the USA’s Department of Energy and the General Motors car company.

Billed as another chance to leverage the power of so-called public/private partnerships, the challenge also gives students powerful experience and training in the established R&D procedures used by the auto industry. Students will work in line with Vehicle Development Process (VDP).

VDP is an industry roadmap used to establish the engineering processes used when designing, constructing and refining vehicles that use advanced technologies. The teams in the challenge will apply VDP while exploring a range of powertrain architectures that revolve around electric-power vehicle technologies.

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