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Ford reveals 'Whisper Strategy' for hybrid vehicles

Ford has reanalyzed its vehicle lineup to make them less noisy.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Fords are not synonymous with hybrid vehicles in the U.S. However, in Europe, where emission standards are stricter, the company is deploying more electrified vehicles, more rapidly.

Along with a focus on engine efficiency is engine noise. Because the size of the traditional internal combustion engine has shrunk with the innovation and addition of electric motors and batteries in vehicles, there is less engine noise permeating the boundaries between the passenger and the power plant.

2020 Ford Kuga More insulation in the cabin means less road noise is passed on to passengers.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Many hybrid vehicles operate with a four-cylinder engine under the hood. They are typically paired with a transmission. Some cars, like the Honda Insight, have no transmission and instead operate on a two-motor system. That transmission typically comes in three varieties: continuously variable transmission (CVT), dual-clutch transmission (DCT), or -speed transmission.

In the past, CVTs were known for being noisy and operating with what has been called a "rubber band effect". Though they've evolved to get better over time, a large reason as to why they've become more tolerable is the evolution and addition of sound-deadening technology around the cabin of the car.

You won't find details of it in a dealer brochure, but automakers are increasingly adding insulation to vehicles, front to rear and at the sides, to keep noise at bay. Ford is one such automaker, deploying what it calls its "Whisper Strategy" - a series of small noise improvements that add up to a big difference.

For its new Kuga SUV, a small model built on the same platform as the Focus and sold outside the U.S., Ford examined minute details, such as door seals, to find ways to lessen the amount of noise permeating the cabin.

2020 Ford Kuga The car was designed with a drive mode that allows it to run on just electric power.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

From there, the engineering team added perforation to the SUV's Vignale leather seat bolsters, which lessened the number of flat surfaces in the cabin allowing materials to absorb noise rather than reflect it.

Sound shields were added to the underside of the body of the vehicle, limiting road and wind noise permeation, and increasing the car's aerodynamic design.

The manufacturer shrunk the Chanels behind the car's exterior panels that traditionally hold hidden wiring to limit the airflow through the vehicle's body.

It took engineers two years to test more than 70 different tires on smooth and rough surfaces, in wet and dry conditions, and at a range of speeds to find which set best kept road noise at bay while achieving goals for grip and comfort.

When behind the wheel of the new Kuga Plug-In Hybrid model, drivers can opt for EV Now drive mode, which switches off the petrol engine and allows the vehicle to run on all-electric power. Without engine noise, the only sound coming into the cabin is from the road and wind. In controlled tests, that noise amounted to 52 decibels, the equivalent of a gentle rainfall.

Just How Much Quieter is a Hybrid Than the Cars of Yesterday? www.youtube.com

That same model also employs active noise cancellation technology. According to Ford, "The system works just like popular noise-cancelling headphones – detecting unwanted low-frequency cabin sounds through strategically-placed microphones and counteracting them with an opposing sound wave from the B&O Sound System."

Ford isn't the only automaker employing these sound deadening techniques. Nissan has had "library-level" noise as a goal for quite some time and the peaceful cabin of the Rogue is frequently noted in journalist reviews. Rolls-Royce prides itself on extra thick, plush carpeting between occupants' feet and the floor of the car, which helps keep road noise away.

The Kuga isn't the only vehicle with these sound deadening features. The practices explored with it are common when a vehicle is redesigned. The biggest difference is that all-electric drive mode, which is only available in PHEVs and EVs.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The front of the concept is very EV in its design.

Photo courtesy of Honda

The Honda SUV e:concept debuted in China this week signaling what's ahead for a future mass-production model of the Honda brand's first electric vehicle to be introduced in China. While what's sold in China doesn't always make it to American shores, there are a few things to be learned by taking a closer look at the concept.

We know that the vehicle's powertrain is electric. How many motors? What type of battery? How much power? In a nutshell, we have no idea. However, that could be where Honda's relationship with General Motors kicks in. A recent agreement to share platforms and co-build future vehicles builds on the electric vehicle platform sharing agreement the two automakers signed in April. In the first agreement agreement, Honda agreed to work with GM to develop two new electric vehicles based on GM's global EV platform powered by Ultium batteries.

Honda SUV e:concept The sloping roofline of the concept is indicative of another Honda model.Photo courtesy of Honda

The concept's sweeping looks are more crossover than SUV. While there's plenty of doubt that the model will be a two-door vehicle when it arrives in showrooms, its overall aesthetic is new for Honda, though it has hints of the current-generation CR-V and Accord in its nose.

The roofline of the SUV and side profile look a lot like the 2020 Honda Avancier, a true crossover that got its start as a station wagon and now sits as the company's flagship in China. If indeed this model is an electric Avancier, it means that the U.S. market is unlikely to see it.

From a business perspective, this makes sense. Electric vehicles are not nearly as popular in the U.S. as they are in China and Europe, where they have been regulated into residents' lifestyles. Additionally, the U.S. electric vehicle charging infrastructure leaves much to be desired.

2020 Honda Avancier

Photo courtesy of Honda

Cars built for the Chinese market also do not have to meet the same strict safety testing standards as American vehicles so they can be made for less and sold for less. Upping to U.S. standards costs more and, when shipping and taxes are added in, the model may be priced out of sensibility for American Honda customers.

Wherever it's destined to go, the Honda will be a mass-production electric vehicle.

The company is committed to equipping the car with a number of safety technologies including omnidirectional advanced driver assistance systems, the next-generation Honda SENSING safety and driver-assistive system with improved recognition, predication and decision-making performance, as well as the next-generation Honda Connect, which features an AI assistant interface, smartphone link, and wireless updates.

Honda SUV e:concept The model features a unique black end with slim lights.Photo courtesy of Honda

Expect to see the next steps in the evolution of this concept in the coming year, even if it's just in spy photos.

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The new RM20e Racing Midship Sports Car showcases the future of the Hyundai brand.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Hyundai debuted the RM20e Racing Midship Sports Car this week, showcasing what isn't the beginning but what is very much the future of what the Hyundai brand will offer. The electric-based high-performance race car, like those designed by other manufacturers is a proving ground for technologies that may be employed in Hyundai passenger vehicles in the future.

Hyundai has been quite open about this calling the platform the RM20e is based on, the RM development platform, will be used for future N brand products that are inspired by the car. This follows as part of the progressive evolution of the car with previous iterations bearing the names RM14, RM15, RM16 and RM19.

RM20e Racing Midship Sports Car

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

Hyundai's first electric race car was developed for the eTCR electric touring car series in 2019 - the Veloster N eTCR.

"Our new electrified RM20e pushes the proven RM platform forcefully into a new, environmentally-focused decade of the 21st century, stretching the performance envelope of electrification on normal road environments," said Albert Biermann, President and Head of Research and Development Division at Hyundai Motor Group. "RM20e represents a revolutionary new chapter of electrified performance for the Racing Midship series, and our N engineers continue to garner valuable insights in the arena of zero-emission performance dynamics."

The mid-engined, rear-wheel drive RM20e features a powertrain that achieves 810 horsepower and 708 pound-feet of torque thanks to its electric motor. It can get from zero to 62 mph in less than three seconds and to 124 mph from a standstill in 9.88 seconds.

Hyundai says that the RM20e combines "race car-like levels of performance, balance, braking, and grip while retaining daily-driver quietness, responsiveness and road-going capability".

The propulsion system driving the car, as well as the equipment that helps it achieve the "race car-like levels of performance, balance, braking, and grip" are part of Hyundai's larger plant to develop hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery, and fuel cell electric vehicles.

Hyundai isn't working alone. The company has formed a strategic partnership with Rimac Automobili to co-develop battery and fuel cell electric vehicle prototypes.

Additionally, Hyundai Motor Group, the parent company of the Hyundai, Genesis, Kia, and new Ioniq brand, has committed to addinng 44 "eco-friendly" models by 2025.

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