A different kind of SUV: High agility, zero local emissions

A different kind of SUV: High agility, zero local emissions

Technology News |
With a highly maneuverable and likewise highly connected electric subcompact, ZF Friedrichshafen makes his claim to join the premier league of the automotive suppliers. The Smart Urban Vehicle (SUV) concept study is designed to demonstrate what is possible today with existing technologies once they only get connected.
By eeNews Europe

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The exceptional high maneuverability of the Smart Urban Vehicle results from the interplay of multiple approaches. First, the two electric motors at the rear axle contribute to steering through torque vectoring which distributes the drive force individually to the two rear wheels. The innovative front axle design enables steering angles of up to 75 degrees, enabling the vehicle to perform U-turns on a standard two-lane street.

The high maneuverability of the Smart Urban Vehicle is complemented by its rather agile electric powertrain. The two electric motors develop a performance of 40 kilowatts each, resulting in a top speed of 150 kmph (93 mph) – not exactly a typical speed for the average urban traffic, but on highways ZFs demo vehicle keeps up with the other traffic.

Fig. 1: Available technology, reassembled: ZF’s Smart Urban Vehicle contains a front axle enabling a steering angle of 75 degrees, assisted by the torque vectoring feature of the two electric motors at the rear axle in a near-wheel arrangeent. The battery sits near the rear axle.


Perhaps even more innovative are its driver assistance systems. The cloud-based PreVision Cloud Assist driver assistance function provides maximum range and driving safety in the Vehicle. Unlike purely GPS-based systems, the study takes into account geometry data and information on the permissible top speed and also stores data in the cloud on the vehicle position, currently driven speed, and lateral and longitudinal acceleration for every journey. If the driver follows the same route again, the system calculates the optimum speed for an approaching bend on the basis of these empirical data and actual vehicle data. The assistance function then throttles back the torque early on before entering the bend, to the point where the bend can be negotiated without any mechanical braking. All of which not only protects the vehicle’s battery and braking system, but also provides greater safety particularly on blind corners.

Fig. 2: Do you see the motor? There are even two of them, sitting at the rear axle and giving the Smart Urban Vehicle a top speed of 150 kmph. With torque vectoring they support steering.

Another driver assistance system already goes one step further into the direction of automated driving. The Smart Parking Assist maneuvers the vehicle into virtually any small parking space – remote-controlled at the push of a button using mobile devices such as a smartphone or smartwatch.


The system obtains its information from twelve ultrasound sensors and two infrared sensors on the vehicle’s front-end, rear-end, and flanks; these sensors help find a suitable parking space. The control electronics process the information and control all the systems involved in the parking function – for instance, the electric drive and the required steering angle of the electric power steering. The driver can interact with the vehicle during the process via the display in the cockpit or trigger the parking function once they exit the vehicle by using an application on a mobile device. The vehicle then automatically searches the surroundings at walking pace for a suitable gap and automatically initiates the parking process.

Fig. 3: Cloud-based driver assistance systems link geopgraphy data to driving parameters, improving drivers safety and comfort.

For the future, the Smart Parking Assist opens up potential scenarios which provide additional benefits for the driver: The driver can get out at the destination, leaving the vehicle to head off autonomously for a parking garage, thus saving valuable time in the process. When implementing the concept, we weren’t only looking at the benefits for the driver,” explains Harald Naunheimer, ZF Head of Corporate Research and Development. “If passenger cars in future park without a driver, parking space can also be used more effectively. As such the door opening angles would no longer need to be taken into account in the parking garage – thus making the parking spaces smaller. All of which also takes the pressure off cities because the freed-up space can then be used productively as additional living and working areas.”

The driver is also in direct contact with the Smart Urban Vehicle via the steering wheel: The hands-on detection function covers the entire steering wheel and thus forms the basis for assistance and automated driving functions. A display in the driver’s direct field of view provides the driver with additional information.

“With the Smart Urban Vehicle, ZF is demonstrating the kinds of specific solutions that are already feasible for urban individual transport by bringing existing technologies and systems in the vehicle together, having these functions interact with the driver, with the driver’s behavior, and with the environment, or by accessing data which can be provided anywhere thanks to cloud connectivity,” explains ZF CEO Stefan Sommer. “At the same time, this concept study also marks to a certain extent a starting point from which concepts for future urban mobility can be derived very specifically – also with regard to the new competency areas opening up for ZF thanks to the acquisition of TRW.”

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ZF swallows TRW Automotive to form world’s second largest supplier

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