2012 Geneva Auto ShowJust the Facts:
- Infiniti's Emerg-E concept is a midengine, range-extender sports car that could potentially become a new flagship model for the brand.
- The concept's range-extending hybrid driveline has been co-developed with Lotus, and shares similar hardware with the Evora 414E concept from 2010.
- The Emerg-E receives 402 horsepower from a pair of electric motors that drive the rear wheels via a single-speed, open-differential transmission.
GENEVA — Infiniti has unveiled a midengine, range-extender sports car concept called Emerg-E at the 2012 Geneva Auto Show. Said to be one of four concepts that could potentially become a new flagship model for the brand, the Emerg-E is the first midengine Infiniti.
Also novel is that much of its creation has taken place in the United Kingdom, where its range-extending, hybrid driveline has been co-developed with Lotus, which used similar hardware in the Evora 414E concept that debuted in 2010. Part of the reason for developing this Infiniti in Britain is that the project has attracted U.K. government funding by encouraging the development of new, locally developed green technologies such as its electric motors and carbon-fiber bodywork.
However, the Emerg-E's exterior design was created in the U.S. by Randy Rodriguez, out of Infiniti's California design studios. His theme triumphed over designs from the company's Japanese and European design centers, although it was the London studio that completed the detail development.
The inner core of the Emerg-E is based on a slightly stretched version of the aluminum chassis of the Lotus Evora, and its potent drivetrain is much the same as the Evora 414E concept's, too. Potent in this case means 402 horsepower from a pair of electric motors that drive the rear wheels via a single-speed open-differential transmission developed by Xtrac. Peak torque is an equally dramatic 738 pound-feet, allowing the Emerg-E to streak to 60 mph in just 4 seconds, says Infiniti. The rather less impressive — given the power output — top speed of 130 mph is limited by the need to prolong battery life, and to give the 47-hp 1.2-liter three-cylinder gasoline range-extender engine a chance of replenishing the lithium-ion battery pack.
This engine is purposely designed as a generator — Lotus is planning to market dedicated range-extender power units to hybrid manufacturers — and is identical to the 414E's, though curiously, the Lotus' electric motors develop slightly more power at 408 hp. Both cars are propelled at all times by these electric motors (unlike the Volt), which have been developed by U.K.-based Evo. The onboard generator provides the Emerg-E with a 300-mile range, 30 of these in zero-emissions EV mode. When the gasoline engine is running, it produces a low 55g/km of CO2 emissions on the European NEDC test cycle.
The decision to collaborate with Lotus on range-extender technology appears less surprising within Infiniti than it does from outside, sister brand Nissan having placed unpublicized projects with the engineering division of the sports-car maker for more than a decade. Infiniti planned a range-extender concept as a logical next-step exploration of the hybrid technologies in which it is already a front runner with models like the M35h sedan, and began developing a front-engine range-extender sports car of its own. But the chance to win partial funding for this project and more importantly, work with an array of hi-tech engineering specialists that it would not normally come into contact with, persuaded Infiniti that there were gains to be made by working with Lotus and developing much of the car in Europe, despite the technical similarities between the Emerg-E and the earlier 414E.
In terms of design the two cars are completely different, the Emerg-E providing Infiniti with the opportunity to stretch its design language around a midengine layout for the first time. Apart from the corporate grille, which looks as if it has been torn from an Infiniti sedan, the Emerg-E makes for a shapely and dramatic presence, and a more elegant one than the Lotus thanks in part to a 2-inch-longer wheelbase. Emerg-E's interior architecture is necessarily slightly similar to the Evora's too, but it, too, looks more swoopily elegant.
Infiniti plans to increase its midengine experience by building a pair of working Emerg-E prototypes during 2012. The aim is to prove out the hardware used in the Emerg-E, and explore the question of whether a midengine range-extender hybrid will become the pinnacle of a model line that lately has been best known for bold crossovers such as the FX and EX. Other contenders for the Infiniti top slot include a luxury sedan, another crossover and an as-yet-undisclosed vehicle format.
Edmunds.com says: The Emerg-E makes a striking departure for Infiniti with its overtly sporty midengine concept, and the exploration of fresh engineering avenues is intriguing, too. Whether it makes a fitting flagship for a brand best known for SUVs and sedans is another issue, however.