Detroit 2008: Saturn Flextreme E-Flex Concept

Click the Flextreme for high-res images

Back in September 2007 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, General Motors main European brand Opel unveiled the second body style and third power-train variant of their E-Flex architecture. Since the product lines of Opel and Saturn have been converging over the past few years it makes sense to display the Flextreme at U.S. auto shows with Saturn badging. Aside from the badge changes, the Flextreme is still the same vehicle that was on the Opel stand in Germany.

To refresh you memories, the Flextreme carries on the power-train concept of the original Chevy Volt as a range extended electric vehicle. Drive to the wheels is provided by a 53kW electric motor which gets electrons from a 16kWh lithium ion battery. Where the Flextreme differs from the Volt is the range extender. The Volt uses a 1.0L three cylinder, gasoline/E85 flex-fuel engine to drive the generator. The Flextreme uses a 1.3L four cylinder diesel engine.

Aside from the diesel E-Flex setup, the other important aspects of the Flextreme are the two on-board Segway scooters mounted in a compartment in the back and the vehicle and the styling. The design of the Flextreme gives a strong preview of the design language of the next generation of Opel and Saturn vehicles starting with the upcoming Opel Insignia which will replace the Vectra and Aura. Check out the coverage of the Flextreme from Frankfurt for more details on the powertrain.

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[Source: General Motors]

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  • Sleek, sporty compact concept vehicle hints at Saturn's future design direction
  • Extended-range electric vehicle features GM's E-Flex System and provides up to 34 miles of all-electric, emissions-free range
  • Customer-friendly innovations include FlexDoors® and FlexLoad® features

DETROIT – Saturn demonstrates that clean, practical transportation and stunning design can go hand-in-hand with the electric-drive Saturn Flextreme concept, introduced today at the North American International Auto Show. Featuring General Motors' breakthrough E-Flex electric propulsion technology that provides up to 34 miles of all-electric, emissions-free range, as well as a sleek, monocab design, the Flextreme looks as clean as it drives.

With multiple aesthetic and functional innovations such as cameras that replace side-view mirrors and unconventional doors that allow easy entry and exit, Flextreme signals that the distinguishing features of Saturn's portfolio will continue in future product introductions: striking, European-inspired designs; and a commitment to providing customers with functional, efficient vehicles that respect the environment.

"Clean design, innovative features and environmental technology are hallmarks of Saturn's newly revitalized portfolio," said Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak. "The Flextreme concept demonstrates how these design-driven, innovative attributes will be applied in our next generation of vehicles, and it shows that unconventional thinking can result in great cars."

A collaborative effort between Saturn and GM's European Opel brand, the Flextreme concept was developed to showcase the future design direction of both brands, which share many similar customer traits. This design partnership has resulted in several highly successful production vehicles in the U.S. and Europe such as the Saturn Aura; the Saturn Sky and Opel GT; Saturn Vue and Opel Antara; and the Saturn Astra and Opel Astra. The Flextreme concept debuted as an Opel at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto Show.

The Flextreme also represents Saturn's ongoing commitment to deliver vehicles that use less fuel and produce fewer emissions. Unlike conventional vehicles and gas-electric hybrids, the Saturn Flextreme concept features GM's E-Flex System that uses an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery to propel it for up to 34 miles of electric-drive-only range. The battery can be recharged at a household outlet in just three hours. On the road, a clean and efficient 1.3L turbo-diesel onboard engine generates additional electricity to replenish the battery and extend the vehicle's driving range. Fully charged, the Flextreme's 34-mile, all-electric driving range is enough for most daily commuters in the U.S. to travel without using any fuel or emitting any CO 2.

Saturn's commitment to innovation and clean transportation is further illustrated by the two high-tech electric Segway® Personal Transporters ingeniously packaged below the Flextreme's cargo floor. With a twist of the handlebar-mounted release, the handlebar retracts and rotates downward for easy loading into the rear compartment. Once docked, the batteries of these modified Segways can be charged along with the Flextreme's batteries.

Exterior design that dares to be different

The Saturn Flextreme concept highlights the new elements of Saturn design language: more sculpted surfacing molding, clear style elements such as narrow, boomerang-shaped lights and a sloping feature line in the side graphics.

Aerodynamic details and lightweight materials help enhance the fuel savings of the electric-drive system. For example, the bottom edge of the windshield is pulled far forward so that the hood, with its characteristic crease, is very short. The integrated power socket is in the cowl panel.

The front grille and rims are covered by lightweight, polycarbonate transparent trim, which improves aerodynamics while maintaining visual aesthetics. Special light alloy wheels look like conventional wheels, yet are designed to avoid energy-robbing air turbulence.

Like the wheel design, the large, boomerang-like curved front light units are visually deceptive, and continue a theme that began with the Opel GTC Concept at the Geneva Motor Show. The vertically oriented front lights "slice up" the front end in an unusual manner. The LED headlamp unit houses a lightweight crossbeam, fog lamps and air intake for brake cooling, which are comparatively small. The curved rear lights are completely integrated into the tailgate and hidden beneath rear glass. If one of the tailgate doors is opened, an additional parking light switches on so that the Flextreme can be easily seen in the dark.

All windows, including the windshield, are made of lightweight polycarbonate, as is a large part of the roof. The Flextreme's panoramic windshield provides a bright and spacious interior and stretches over most of the roof, which is reinforced by a spine-like composite structure that extends to the rear floor.

Innovative doors open up new possibilities

In keeping with Saturn's philosophy of challenging conventional thinking, the Flextreme concept design team set out to create a vehicle that combined GM's E-Flex chassis with a body style that is dynamic, yet efficiently makes the best use of space. To do so, it uses the FlexDoors® and FlexLoad® systems, two innovative, customer-focused solutions that enhance the Flextreme's functionality.

With the FlexDoors system, access to the rear cargo area is throug h two butterfly-style rear tailgate doors that individually swing open upward along the central axis of the vehicle. This thoughtful feature allows the Flextreme's trunk to be accessible from the side when parked tightly against a wall or another vehicle, or when a bicycle rack is fitted on the rear.

The rear doors are another key distinguishing feature of the Flextreme. While the front doors open in the conventional manner, the rear doors are rear-hinged. And as there is no center roof pillar (B-pillar), opening both doors on one side creates a large opening for easy entry. For families, this feature is especially useful when securing child seats and children into the rear seating positions.

High-tech interior features enhance convenience

The FlexLoad underfloor luggage compartment may be the Flextreme's most customer-friendly feature. A practical yet flexible stowage option that extends and retracts electronically, it eliminates having to lift luggage up, over and into a trunk. In the Flextreme concept on display, the rechargeable Segway® Personal Transporters are docked in this underfloor luggage compartment.

Also inside the Flextreme concept are honeycomb structures that offer low weight and high rigidity. These functional, geometric structures can be found in the instrument panel's lower portion, cabin floor, cargo floor and above the center tunnel where the lithium-ion batteries are located.

The seats use lightweight construction and are anchored to the car's floor by a single track rather than the usual two, creating more foot space in the rear. Refined upholstery gives the seats a light and elegant look, with some parts in fabric/mesh and corners made of especially soft material. The steering wheel hub houses another high-tech feature: a full-size driver air bag packaged with a special vacuum technique that reduces its overall volume.

Large, panoramic, configurable displays are set directly under the windshield. They can show a complete, all-around view of the car's surroundings, using the two side cameras (one front-facing, one rear-facing) that replace the conventional side mirrors. The displays can also show information about vehicle systems such as the audio system, phone and other equipment.

All the right touches

A second display on the center console features touch-screen operation. At the top, the programmable, one-touch buttons are designed like computer shortcuts. They provide easy access to various intuitive menus, including air conditioning, communi­cation/infotainment and navigation functions. The buttons can be freely programmed and adapted to new infotainment systems. Further down is the Flextreme's touch-screen drive selector gate, with three driving positions: D, P and R (drive, park and reverse). The gears can also be comfortably selected via touch-screen control.

A clever storage system at the front and back of the center tunnel allows front and rear passengers to stow items such as mobile phones, MP3 players, iPods and PDAs in two drawers. The best part about this system is that the electrical devices can be recharged in the drawers by induction, and Bluetooth-capable systems can transmit their data to the onboard infotainment system.

E-Flex System reduces emissions, trips to the gas station

The Saturn Flextreme concept is part of GM's ongoing commitment to develop vehicles that reduce emissions and the automobile's dependency on petroleum. Unlike conventional vehicles and gas-electric hybrids, GM's E-Flex System uses an electric motor, powered by a lithium-ion battery, to propel the Flextreme for up to 34 miles of all-electric and emissions-free range. The onboard engine creates additional electricity to extend the vehicle's driving range to a total of 444 miles (715 km).

GM has initiated production engineering for the E-Flex System. Production timing depends on continued advancement of key enabling technologies; specifically, the development of lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicle applications.

While the featured fuel in Saturn Flextreme concept is diesel, GM's E-Flex System has previously been shown in gasoline and hydrogen fuel cell concepts.

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