IAA Frankfurt 2013 - LPG hits the big time
The IAA equals splendour and grandeur not to be seen at local motor shows. German manufacturers, who feel the strongest urge and are under the greatest pressure to present themselves at their best, book entire pavillions and showcase all they've got (plus what they haven't got just yet, but what they're hoping and promising to have any moment now) in full bling overdrive and on several storeys. A world premiere is preferable (be it a production-ready or a concept car), a new bodystyle of an existing model or at least a facelift is an absolute must. Those who display models already known from the streets, risk going unnoticed. With this sort of display area and number of exhibitors it's just inevitable to stand out – going to Frankfurt and getting lost in the crowd is worse than not being there at all.
Gas, gas, gas!
It's obviously obvious we went to Frankfurt mainly to see and cover the premieres of cars running on gaseous fuels – LPG and CNG. As for the former, we managed to find... as few as four. We had already known of two – Kia Picanto and Opel Adam – as they had been announced and publicised prior to the event, but we found the remaining two a pleasant and unexpected surprise when we saw them on the show floor. OK, but first things first.
The Picanto LPG is a car coming back from the dead – it was supposed to make its debut two and a half years ago, but it was withdrawn from pricesheets and the market at the eleventh hour, as if it never existed. All orders accepted by dealers were cancelled and the car just vanished. But now, having undergone a series of technical changes, it's back in all its teeny-tiny glory. We'd say it's more plain than it was supposed to be back in 2011 (the LPG tank has been moved from in front of the rear axle to the spare wheel well and the petrol tank is back to its full size and capacity instead of just 10 litres, as was originally planned), with power down from 82 to 67 PS (even though the engine is the same), but the liquid state LPG injection system, designed for this very model and fitted in Kia's factory, on the assembly line, is still there. So are separate fuel level indicators on the dashboard. Originally, in the 2011 Picanto LPG, the petrol level indicator was just an LED display (since petrol was just an emergency fuel), now they're quite similar, with the LPG display being the upper one. We can't help thinking the car's a bit watered down compared to its 2011 forerunner, but at least it's finally here and hopefully this time it's here to stay.
On the other hand, there's the LPG-powered Opel Adam, which made a much better impression. According to early announcements, it was supposed to be equipped with a 1,2-litre, 70 PS engine, but eventually it's been given a 1,4-litre, 87 PS motor. Add a fuel type switch neatly composed into the dashboard, LPG level display integrated into the trip computer and a tailor-made underbody LPG tank (the Adam has no spare wheel well) and there you have it – an Audi A1, Mini and Citroën DS3 contender bound to give its rivals a run for their money.
The third debut was a local one, but still worth noticing. It was a Hyundai i40 Wagon with "Flüssiggas” spelled along the side in flashy green. The car sported a 2-litre GDI engine (with direct petrol injection), converted at Hyundai-Kia's German conversion centre with BRC's latest invention – the LDI direct LPG injection system. Clearly this isn't a factory-made conversion (e. g. the LPG level indicator was an LED one, straight from BRC's stock), but it was well done and "blessed” by the car's manufacturer, so it's fully legitimate. Too bad it's not a Europe-wide premiere, but nothing's definite – it might actually be launched outside Germany.
The fourth and final LPG debut was indeed a factory conversion, but we've already (sort of, kind of) covered it as it was the Hyundai i10 LPG – Kia Picanto LPG's technological twin. It features the same 1-litre, 3-cylinder engine churning out 66 PS/94 Nm on petrol and 67 PS/90 Nm on autogas, so it's definitely a car made for zipping through traffic, not for traveling far as the eye can see. A choice of two gearboxes (a five-speed manual one and a four-speed auto) will be available. The i10 LPG serves a purpose – it guarantees that the Picanto LPG won't disappear right before the first set of keys is handed over to the buyer. Or at least we hope so.
And that's pretty much it as far as LPG goes. Luckily, there's CNG to write about (we'd say it was more visible during the IAA than LPG) and we certainly will write about it, but not just now. We're going to cover natural gas-powered cars in our coverage's another, upcoming instalment, so please stand by. Don't miss your opportunity to read our „alternative” point of view!
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