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Volkswagen EcoRacer
Sporty, frugal and... very clever

EcoRacer: the beginning of a variety of shows.

21st October 2005.

Sports, fuel economy and environment care are not necessarily incompatible. That what VW's EcoRacer prototype will defend at the 2005 Tokyo motor show when it opens its doors to the public tomorrow (until Sunday, November 6, 2005).

The name says it: Eco, because fuel consumption and emission are very low; Racer, because the dynamic potential of this mid-engined sports car is thoroughbred.

Thanks to its carbon-fibre (CFP) bodywork, the EcoRacer weighs only 850 kilograms. Powered by a newly developed 100-kW turbo-diesel engine, and mated to a DSG double-clutch transmission, it shows impressive figure: a top speed of 230 kph, 0-100 km/h in 6.3 seconds... and 3.4 litres per 100 km average consumption!

Driven economically, it can even travel more than 1000 kilometres on one tank filling (30 litres).

Coupe, says one of its three "business cards".

Bodywork - The EcoRacer is 3.77 metres long, 1.74 metres wide, and only 1.21 meters high. The wheelbase of the specially developed 17” alloy rims is 2.48 metres, with extremely short font and rear overhangs.

A carbon-fibre (CFP = carbon-fibre reinforced plastic) bodywork was adopted for both light ness and stiffness. Structurally, it is a CFP polycoque with roll bar, CFP crash elements and a CFP skin. The main parts of the polycoque are a chassis pan, two side members and the dashboard.

The crash elements in the front area consist of the CFP crash absorber and an aluminium bumper cross-member. A further CFP module carries the engine and rear axle. The vehicle floor with integrated diffuser is also made of CFP.

The EcoRacer as a coupé.

The EcoRacer as a coupé: the bonnet, boot-lid and doors are also made of CFP, as are the roof elements. The door locks of the EcoRacer open electromechanically. This not only releases the door catch – via Keyless-Entry-and-Go system – but also swings the associated roof wing upwards on a gas-pressure damper, so as to optimise the entry and exit. These roof sections and the so-called T-bar, the longitudinal web between them, can be removed completely and stowed behind the seats.

The EcoRacer as a roadster.

The EcoRacer as a Roadster: in a matter of minutes, the entire roof structure including the windows can be removed or converted. First, the rear hatch, the coupe rear end, is removed. At the same time, the side elements of the front wings between the front wheel and the door hinge are taken out. The effect of the thus partially free-standing tyres has dynamics all of its own. In fact, without the hatch and the roof, the coupé now emerges as a roadster. 

The EcoRacer as a speedster.

The EcoRacer as a Speedster: a special catch in the area of the A column can be simply released to allow the windscreen (with its frame) and the upper dashboard housing to be taken off. In place of this module, a minimalistic windscreen with its own dashboard cover is inserted. The result is a speedster in its purest form.

In the area of the B columns, the typical air intakes of a central-engined sports car are dominant. A sense of power emanates from the muscular contours of the wings and the 17” aluminium-alloy wheels that fill the wheel-boxes.

Running gear - The front double-wishbone axle is a completely new design. The wishbones are made of aluminium, as are the pivot bearings. The four-control-shaft rear axle is based on the derivate that was used in the Golf. Its use in a central-engined sports car emphasises the potential of an axle that harmonises perfectly with front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. In the EcoRacer (weight distribution front / rear: 40 to 60) it was tuned specifically to the central-engine concept, and robbed of a few kilograms.

The EcoRacer: a TDI and yet, it means business on the track.

Braking is by internally ventilated discs (front 288 millimetres diameter and rear 286 mm). The main brake cylinder with its 10-inch brake booster is a contribution from the Golf family model. 

Like the electric parking brake, the ESP originated in the new Passat, its software being adapted to rear-wheel drive (Passat: front-wheel and all-wheel drive). The pedal arrangement of the EcoRacer, with standing accelerator and hanging brake pedal, come from the current Golf GTI.

The EcoRacer’s 1.5 TDI engine is still under trial. Like the new twin charger (TSI) among the direct-injection petrol engines, the turbo-diesel direct injection engine is characterised by greatest agility at lowest consumption.

The TDi engine extracts a remarkable 91.64 PS and 168.46 Nm per litre.

The Volkswagen developers refer to it as a highly charged downsizing concept. The four-cylinder engine develops 100 kW / 136 PS at 4000 rpm. Between 1900 and 3750 rpm, the 1484 cc four-valve unit develops a torque of more than 250 Newton-metres. That makes a remarkable 91.64 PS and 168.46 Nm per 1000 cc! The compression ratio is 17.2:1. The gearbox of the turbo-diesel is the DSG double-clutch transmission.

Presented in the EcoRacer for the first time, the 1.5 TDI unit has the potential to implement the CCS process (Combined Combustion System) which combines the advantages of diesel and petrol engines, using synthetic fuels.

Interior - The two-seater prototype has leather-upholstered bucket seat, a multifunction display, with central instruments and integrated infotainment functions, all visible whatever the adjustment position of the steering wheel, and whatever the size of the driver.

The multifunction display moves with the steering wheel.

The secret is that the multifunction display is integrated in the steering column, and moves with the steering wheel. The steering wheel itself is a new design with an airbag, and measures 340 millimetres in diameter.

The cockpit offers an enormous range of functions. At the same time, the number operating elements concentrate on the essentials. Thanks to the new central display, only those functions are visualised that are currently relevant.

The central dial allows the driver to query many different display functions. The predominant basic setting is either the speedometer or a rev counter; although they are digital, these functions have an analogue appearance. If the DSG is shifted manually, the display can, if desired, indicate when a gear-change is recommended through a red outer ring.

In addition, the TFT display can be switched from “Normal Mode” to a “Racing Mode” with a switch in the gear lever.

In race mode, the characteristics of the electromechanical power-assisted steering (EPS) is varied towards more direct steering. The electronics make this possible (the steering is taken from the Golf).

“Normal” mode to “Racing Mode” with a switch in the gear lever.

Overall, the steering of the EcoRacer has been designed in a very sports-car-like manner, taking into account the very light loading of the front axle. The running-gear engineers also adapted the track rods to the geometry of the front axle.

In “Racing Mode”, the engine-gearbox characteristics are altered in parallel for an even more sporting set-up.

A further highlight is “Fingerprint”, an authorisation system which allows to tailor the EcoRacer performance, not just preferences, to different drivers.

If, for instance, your 18-year-old son or daughter with little driving experience wants to drive the EcoRacer, it is possible to activate a mode in which the sports car does not develop its full power, the top speed is electronically reduced, and ESP is always active.

This feature can be likened to the different access/ read / write / execute rights or privileges that a computer or domain administrator can grant to each user or category of users.

The MMI four function fields: Car, Navigation, Telephone and Audio.

The various display modes (colour or monochrome can be selected) are controlled by an MMI system (Multi Media Interface, well known from Audi). The MMI with its cursor and four function fields (Car, Navigation, Telephone and Audio) is located on the aluminium-effect central tunnel in front of the DSG gearshift, which is also newly designed.

At this point, there is an integrated storage compartment with an interface for an Apple iPod (title display and menu control via the central display).

The EcoRacer’s 1.5 TDI is started and stopped by pressing a button on the switchboard (part of the Keyless-Entry-and-Go system). Also in aluminium are the knobs that control the air-conditioning, the inside door handles, the switches for the electric window lifters and the ventilator nozzles.

The upper dashboard area is painted in body colour. The rear-view mirror is also mounted on this painted surface, which is part of the windscreen module, and can be swapped out in one piece.

LED - Technically, the LED headlamps and LED rear lights deserve particular attention.

Outer ring of 50 LEDs.

The headlamp modules are built with a depth of only 55 millimetres, thus allowing the front end to be completely newly arranged. Hitherto, especially in cars with a very short body overhang, conventional headlamps have been installed significantly higher than the axles. But thanks to the flatness of the LED headlamps, a much lower position is now feasible, even in a sports car like the EcoRacer.

In the EcoRacer, Volkswagen use two chrome plated headlamp tubes in each lamp. The upper tube is for dipped and full headlights. In addition to the LEDs for these main functions, the headlamp has an outer ring consisting of another 50 LEDs. When dimmed, this ring plays the role of the side light and – at full brilliance – the daytime driving light that is already regulation in many countries.

At the same time, the dipped headlights, reduced to 10 percent, are switched on. The signaling
effect is excellent.

RGB-LEDs: activated in different colours.

The lower tube in each lamp contains the LED fog lamp and the LED cornering light. Again, nothing is as you have come to expect.

Take the cornering light, for example: it is generated by an LED that is angled three degrees outwards. There being no swiveling headlamp, the depth required for installation is
reduced here, too.

The construction of the LED rear lamps is no less innovative. Here, Volkswagen use extremely bright RGB-LEDs; these can be activated in different colours, and are located as units on the three LED circuit boards of each rear light. Each of these circuit boards can be used separately or additively for the different lighting functions (tail light, braking light, flasher).

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