AutoblogGreen Q&A: Tony Martindale of Connaught Motor Company and the Type-D Hybrid

In the third AutoblogGreen Podcast (which you can listen to here), we heard from Tony Martindale about the Connaught Type D hybrid. You can read more on the Type D-H here and read what Martindale has to say below. Enjoy.

ABG: I'm here with Tony Martindale of Connaught Motor Company and we are going to talk a little bit about the Type D hybrid. We are here at the booth at the AFVI, alternative fuels and vehicle's conference and expo. I have noticed a lack of any sort of vehicle. There are lots of videos and lots of pictures but you were telling me there is a specific reason why you didn't bring the Type D over.

TM: Yeah. Sure. We are launching the vehicle in the U.K. market this year and we are currently laying down the production facility which means we will be getting cars to consumers in the U.K. around about November of this year. The reason why we haven't brought the car over to the U.S. is that we don't want to over egg the product to the U.S. market just yet. We want to make sure we get a real structured launch, a real structured grounding exercise in place and, you know, my biggest concern is that we need to make sure we look after our customers because we are very keen on making the sale of the vehicle and the experience of owning a Connaught is a very special – special one indeed. So, you know, if we brought a vehicle here – we already received something like six percent of our interest in the product from the U.S. already and if I went even further with that now, we would – it would almost become unmanageable just to sheer volume of all the requests.

ABG: But there is an idea that it would likely be available for sale here –

TM: Yes, very much so.

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ABG: – looking at 2009? 2010?

TM: 2009 – 2010, the vehicle itself is currently going through what we call low volume type approval in the U.K., uh, which means we can do 750 cars a year which is next year's production run of, 100 and then 750 in the next two years in the U.K. and then in parallel, the design process to meet both federal and EU for 2010 compliance is running parallel so once that has been done we are also, um, laying down our manufacturing facility for volume manufacturing which will also come on line in July 2009. So when you put the whole, um, strategy together you are looking at 2009 – 2010 introduction to this market.

ABG: Okay. You were saying that you don't want to overhype demand before you can produce it, but definitely some of the numbers on the car definitely sort of lend themselves to not necessarily hype but a lot of excitement at the very least.

TM: Yeah.

ABG: Let me just run down what I have read; 140 miles per hour, 0 to 60 in 6.2 or 6.4 seconds or something like that, 42 miles per gallon, you have got a V10 engine with a hybrid system, four seats, um, what did I miss?

TM: Not a lot other than the vehicle itself weighs less than one metric ton. So when you are looking at trying to develop a vehicle, we – because it is really interesting where hybrid technology has moved us to today because we – not only do we do the hybrid system on our car, we are also moving into the commercial vehicle market with retrofit hybrids and that all stemmed from having a desire to really do innovative products and that lead us down the engineering path of how the hell do we meet these targets of 42 miles per gallon. It is lightweight and my engineers said hey, we have to go into this hybrid thing, you know, even though in 2002 the marketplace wasn't really ready. And, of course, what has happened since then is the market has really come into the hybrid segment for the large OE's, your Toyota's, your Honda's are really educating the buying public and the acceleration in that space is huge and it is something that we really need to get moving on very, very quickly now.

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ABG: Another number that I didn't have was the cost. Is there any estimates on that as of right now?

TM: Yeah. Well we do two versions of the vehicle. We do the 300-horsepower V-10 supercharged version which turns 60 percent better fuel economy than anything else in its class just due to the weight targets, and that retails, carbon alloy body, stainless steel laser flatsheet chassis with an aerospace bonding composite in there and, you know, that retails for 65,000 pounds in the U.K.

ABG: That's $130,000 in the U.S.?

TM: That's around about $100,000.

ABG: $120? Oh. Okay.

TM: And we will be looking at the range to, you know, considering the vehicle, only doing a maximum of 5,000 a year the range will run from about 45,000 U.K. to 80,000 U.K. depending upon specifications.

ABG: Okay. Um, do you have any estimates on exact like CO2 emissions, like grams per kilometer numbers?

TM: Yeah. Sure.

ABG: Because the only thing I saw on the web site is that it would be "ultra low."

TM: Yeah. The reason for that is the the V-10 hybrid if you are running at full 2-liter mode is 162, which doesn't sound great but you have got a car that is high performance for that level of CO2 emissions, but one of the really exciting pieces of technology we are doing now our patented cooling systems we have got in the vehicle is we – in the urban drive cycle environment, we shut down one bank so you have a 1-liter inline five hybrid and that drops you down to about 110 grams per kilometer. Which is, you know, in the U.K. they are bringing in like tax incentives for gas guzzlers – they are double taxing gas guzzlers – there are congestion charge zones in London and we are thinking globally that that structure is going to roll out everywhere. So you get – you get the best of both worlds really. You know, you get a 1-liter hybrid in the city which is pushing almost 50 – 60 miles per gallon. You go out on the open road and you floor it and you get the added torque from the electric motor and the V10 down there as well and you get the extra performance.

ABG: I – I was going to ask about the – the description about the car says that the hybrid was the only – that the hybrid feature was added not only for sort of the, you know, to give it like a green sheen, oh, we're making hybrids like other people but that it does add performance and is that what you are talking about right there, you have got the added torque and you have got the-

TM: Yeah. What an electric motor does is that it gives you maximum torque to zero up, and I am not sure what it does in pounds to feet, but in Newton meters we have perfectly flat torque at 190 Newton meters from 0 RPM and so the IP that we have developed for the driving system, we run the electric motor through a CVT to the crank of the engine which means we can run the electric motor independent of engine speed so you can then tune your torque delivery from the hybrid system to really give you added performance. So the whole vehicle's package is being designed to give high performance, high torque drive style if you want it but also when you are in the city drive cycle, gives you extra fuel economy.

ABG: Right. That idea right there that you can get different performance based on what you want, there are three different modes for the car, right?

TM: Right.

ABG: There is sport, there's economy, and there's normal.

TM: That's right.

ABG: And are these like button push? Is this depending on where your foot is on the gas pedal? Like how does it – how does the car change through those cycles?

TM: It is really dependent on what the driver feels comfortable with. In economy mode you get a really aggressive, you get the real aggressive deactivation, you get the ability to get stop/start on the internal engine so you get a real a real aggressive hybrid strategy, but, you know, if you – some people really don't feel comfortable with that all the time. We have done a lot of work and benchmarking competitive vehicles and we generally find some customers that just want to keep their engines running because they want to hear the noise and so when you put it in normal mode basically you get a slightly less aggressive strategy and then when you're in sport mode, that is when you get all the torque and, you know, you really then want performance and you tie in the engine management system for the petrol engine and the hybrid system together and you get the variance and you can put it just in full-auto and get everything, you know?

ABG: Okay, so there is a setting where the car decides –

TM: Absolutely.

ABG: – when to change? Is there a way to manually over ride that?

TM: Yes. Absolutely. I mean, generally speaking, what you would have is that you start a car in just normal mode, you get stop/start, you get pretty aggressive strategy on hybridization with regards to regen and, you just over ride it and you hit the sport mode button and it's like having – almost like having an electrical supercharger.

ABG: Let's go back to the numbers that we talked about at the beginning. Does the 0 to 60 in 6 seconds based on sport mode and the 42 miles per gallon based on economy mode? Like where does –

TM: Essentially, really interesting because when you - the issue actually got when you look at the European drive cycle and the North American drive cycle with regards to hybrid vehicles is – it is probably one of the worst drive cycles in the world where you can fully assess your fuel economy savings because it physically tells you when you have to depress the clutch. Which, of course, we disengage in the hybrid system. You are not going to get any savings so the harder you drive the car the more fuel you save. You know, it is really strange. You get into London and you – the more you accelerate and decelerate, you actually save more fuel and so it really does – what we are trying to do is working with a lot of the other European manufacturers and EU cars and see how are we going to get this drive cycle for hybrid vehicles to truly give you the actual fuel economy that it is going to be. So of course 42 miles per gallon comes out of the current EU/DC drive cycle.

ABG: Okay. Cool. Well, Tony, thank you for talking to AutoblogGreen.

TM: I appreciate it.

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