With all the rage being hybrid and electric vehicles, with a hint of hydrogen powers cars still lingering in our minds, Skoda reveals their Vision X Concept – an innovative mild-hybrid four-wheel-drive powertrain fuelled by compressed natural gas (CNG).
Skoda will introduce the Vision X concept, which could be called either Amiq or Anuq, at this year's Geneva Motor Show.
Details reveal that the Vision X will be a small SUV powered by a 1.5-litre petrol engine that’s engineered to run on CNG, with "cutting-edge" 48-volt mild-hybrid powertrains front and back and a 27bhp/70Nm electric motor. The latter is attached to the rear axle and can either drive the car short distances on pure-electric power or join forces with the combustion engine to deliver four-wheel drive.
The electric motor at the rear can also be disconnected to allow the Vision X to run as front-wheel drive. It will only intervene to recuperate energy when coasting downhill or braking. This electricity is then fed back into a pair of batteries situated underneath the front seats. These batteries power both the front and rear motors.
If Skoda is to be believed, the vehicle will nail 62mph in 9.3 seconds and top out at 124mph. CO2 emissions are pegged at a comparatively low 89g/km for a four-wheel-drive SUV and, apparently, it will have a range of around 370 miles.
According to senior company executives, the Vision X will be more crossover than SUV. Technical specs suggest it is both longer and wider than both the VW T-Roc and the SEAT Arona from its ‘sister’ VW Group cars. If the teaser image of its front end is to be scrutinised though, the Skoda’s roofline appears significantly lower than both of its siblings, which implies the Amiq/Anuq will be more like an upsized hatchback rather than a pure off-roader.
In saying this though, speaking to Auto Express last year, Skoda said it "wants its smallest SUV to deliver family car practicality", which accounts for the larger wheelbase.
On when this powertrain will make production, Skoda board member, Christian Strube, said, “We are pushing for it. It could and should happen in the early years of the next decade. This is a very good way of delivering four-wheel drive on a car of this size because it works well for packaging; there’s no transmission tunnel, and the motor is compact and fits on the usual axle. About one in every 10 Skodas sold is four-wheel drive and we want to be able to offer this on not only our larger vehicles but also our ‘A0’ cars. In some cases, this will mean that people will be able to choose this type of model instead of having to go for a larger car just to get four-wheel drive.
“Beyond that, we also want to say that CNG is good and that it can work,” he added. “We’re selling 10 percent of all Octavias with this technology already here in the Czech Republic. But to make it really work it needs help from everyone - customers, the media, our rivals. Sustainability is really a big part of what we want to achieve, and that’s one of the reasons we’re raising this issue with such a high-profile car as the Vision X.”
Skoda believes the development of e-fuels – where renewable energy is used to mix hydrogen with CO2 harnessed from the atmosphere to produce methane, or synthetic petrol or diesel – will drive demand for CNG.
Martin Hrdlicka, Skoda's powertrain chief, calculated that "'cradle-to-grave' CO2 emissions for a 1.0-litre 114bhp petrol vehicle could be as high as 151g/km (including manufacturing, fuel production and recycling) – some way north of the car’s official EU figure of 104g/km. But he claims this lifetime figure could drop to 54g/km if the car in question used e-fuels throughout its life."
That's not to say that pure electric vehicles will fall away. The demand for emission-free zones will still have a significant role to play for a long time to come.
According to Auto Express: "production Vision X will arrive by the end of the decade. But the mild-hybrid systems – which could be supplied with or without the CNG tanks and tech – are likely to have to wait until the mid-life facelift of the car, in around 2022 or 2023. The hybrid systems bring a small reduction in luggage capacity, while the CNG tanks – which are mounted beneath the back seat and the boot – force a larger compromise again."
Which begs the question, what will the production version of the Amiq/Anuq comprise? It seems 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre petrol engines at first with the possibility of a diesel down the road but, with diesel being the bad-boy of the combustion family at the moment, this may be dropped for the hybrid models.
Let's see what happens in Geneva and beyond.