Normally we wouldn't cover a Malaysian mini-car concept exhibited at an auto show in Switzerland. But we're making an exception for the Proton Concept, which will be unveiled next week at the Geneva Motor Show in three different body styles.
That's because Proton is the first maker to use the new Lotus advanced series-hybrid drivetrain, including the three-cylinder, 1.2-liter Range Extender engine-and-generator set, designed for extended-range electric vehicles (aka series hybrids).
Proton Concept platform showing battery pack and Lotus range-extender engine, 2010 Geneva Motor Show
Proton five-door concept, 2010 Geneva Motor Show
Proton Family concept interior, 2010 Geneva Motor Show, from Autocar
Lotus announced the engine and generator set last fall at the Frankfurt Motor Show. (It's worth pointing out here, by the way, that Proton owns Group Lotus and its Lotus Engineering arm).
A family of Proton Concept vehicles will be shown on the Italdesign stand at Geneva, since that famed Italian design house created them for the Malaysian carmaker.
A three-door hatchback concept named "Country" was announced this week; two weeks earlier, Proton had shown details of a five-door concept with four seats. A crossover with higher ground clearance is expected to round out a trio of the concepts.
The complete drivetrain includes a lithium-ion battery pack, which can be recharged using electricity from the local grid. It powers an electric motor and gives up to several miles of electric-only range.
After that, the Lotus Range Extender engine switches on to recharge the battery and power the motor. It can run on gasoline, ethanol, or methanol.
Italdesign Giugiaro created the platform for the vehicle around the Lotus powertrain. It sits tall to accommodate the flat battery pack underneath the passenger compartment, giving a seating height similar to that of an SUV.
Giugiaro, in fact, claims that the vehicles will provide interior space similar to that of a compact car, despite a length of less than 12 feet.
Proton, Malaysia's only significant carmaker, has sold more than 3 million cars since 1983, mostly in Asia. The concepts are meant to foreshadow small green cars it plans to sell around the world, meaning they will have to meet U.S. and European safety and emissions regulations.
The Lotus Range Extender is just one of many planned small, high-output engines. They include the 193-hp, 1.2-liter Mahle and 130-hp, 0.7-liter Ilmor, both three-cylinders, and the 900cc turbocharged twin that Fiat plans to fit to European models of its 500 mini-car.