What is it?
This is the Peugeot 208 Hybrid FE concept, which made its public debut at the Frankfurt show in September.
Based on the standard-issue supermini, the FE (‘Fun’ and ‘Economy’) is a showcase for a range of new technologies and new ideas that have created a car with emissions officially rated at just 46g/km on the NEDC driving cycle; it's also capable of reaching 62mph in eight seconds from a standing start.
Peugeot engineers (of whom around ten were drafted in from Peugeot Sport) and Total worked together on the concept, which has been taken from a clean sheet of paper to two running mules in just 16 months.
Engineers say that the major engineering work on the standard 208 centred on four areas: improving aerodynamics, reducing overall weight, improving the economy of the petrol engine and adding an electric hybrid system.
‘Improving aerodynamics’ has meant a significant – and very clever – change to the rear of the 208. The FE gets a new tail section, which slots onto the rear of the body, in place of the factory tailgate and bumper. The underneath of the FE is also completely flat and the radiator grille is 40 per cent smaller. The width of the rear end of the car has also been narrowed by 40mm. The upshot is a Cd of 0.25, a 25 per cent reduction in drag.
Peugeot also worked with Total’s polymers division and subsidiaries CCP Composites and Hutchinson to develop lightweight composite panels for the 208 factory bodyshell, replacing the skin panels and the floor pressings.
The 20kg outer skin is made in one piece; the bonnet weights 5kg and the wings 2.1kg. The interior mouldings have been made from a mix of polypropylene and natural fibres, saving a remarkable 15kg. The body’s weight is reduced from 295kg to 227kg. Polycarbonate windows (doors aside) save another 5kg.
Peugeot and Hutchison have also completely re-thought the suspension system, replacing the McPherson struts and rear beam axle with two large transverse leaf springs.
Made from a glass-fibre resin, the stiffness and flexibility of the ‘leaf’ is tuned along its length. They replace the beam axle at the rear and the lower wishbones and anti-roll bars at the front, as well as the springs front and rear. The new set-up is 20kg lighter.
The 208 FE’s engine is based on the company’s new three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit, but it has undergone extensive re-engineering. Increased in capacity to 1.2-litres, and running on a Miller Cycle, the compression ratio has been increased from 11:1 to 16:1. Power stays the same, at 68bhp, but torque rises by 25 per cent.
Peugeot's FE engine also features conrods made from titanium and pistons made from an aluminium-copper alloy. Peugeot engineers say that internal friction can consume as much as 20 per cent of an engine’s power, so the camshafts, crankshaft, pistons, piston rings and camshaft followers are coated in a ‘diamond-like carbon coating’.
Total has also developed a new 0W12 ‘bio-sourced’ oil that is much less ‘sticky’ when cold. Overall, the engine weighs just 50kg; 10kg less than the production unit. Because the coolant capacity of the engine is some seven times smaller than the production engine, the radiator is also much smaller, further helping aerodynamic performance. The engine also runs on a new Total-developed high-octane petrol.
The new hybrid system is quite unusual. It couples a relatively small 30kW electric motor (weighing just 7kg) with the Peugeot's automated manual gearbox, using a series of gears, onto the differential. The electric motor not only drives the car in pure-electric mode, it also has the role of providing reverse gear as well as acting as the alternator and starter motor.
The battery pack is pretty small, just 0.56kWh and 25kg, and sits under the rear seat alongside the shrunken 20-litre fuel tank. The car rolls on 19in wheels with very narrow section 145/16 tyres.