Tata Nexon Concept - 2014 Geneva Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
As an alternative to costlier full-hybrid systems, many suppliers are looking to mild-hybrid powertrains to boost the efficiency of internal-combustion cars.
A small 48-volt battery can provide supplementary electrical power, taking some of the load off the gasoline or diesel engine.
One company even hopes to market a system that turns front-wheel drive minicars into all-wheel drive hybrids.
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The proposed Fever system, which stands for Forty-Eight Volt Electrified Rear-axle, adds an electric motor to the rear axle of a small car.
This creates a "through-the-road" hybrid system, in which the internal-combustion engine drives the front wheels and the electric motor powers the rear wheels.
Now, such a system is the subject of a research project led by Controlled Power Technologies (CPT), with help from Ricardo, the Tata Motors European Technical Centre, and Provector.
Tata IndicaEnlarge Photo
So far, the partners plan to build only two research vehicles, which will be tested over a period of two years.
They're aiming for a reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions of up to 15 percent, and anticipate at least some electric-only operation at low speeds in real-world driving.
The Tata Motors technical center will supply the test vehicles, which could be modified versions of one of the Indian carmaker's production models.
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Tata-branded cars are currently sold in Italy, Poland, and Spain, while models from the company's Jaguar Land Rover subsidiary are more widely available in luxury markets globally.
CPT will develop the electric motor and control system, Provector will supply the battery, and Ricardo's primary responsibility will be to supply the rear-axle assembly.
The partners secured £1.8 million (about $2.5 million) in funding from Innovate U.K., a government agency that backs technology research, bringing total funding to £3.4 million (about $4.9 million).
Tata TiagoEnlarge Photo
That money will fund only the test program, though. No production plans for the Fever system have been announced thus far.
While a through-the-road mild-hybrid system is fairly novel, it's not unheard of in conventional full hybrids.
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Among other applications, an extra electric motor is used to power the rear axle in Toyota and Lexus hybrid crossovers.
That's also the case with the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid, which is expected to go on sale in the U.S. later this year.