When mentioned, Pininfarina is a firm most often recognized for designing nearly every Ferrari production car in the last fifty years. Less well known is the fact that Pininfarina is more than just a design agency. Over the years they've produced car bodies for Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Peugeot -- all of them mainstream consumer brands.
In it's latest project, Pininfarina collaborated with French battery maker Bolloré to develop the 2010 B-Zero, a four door, four seat plug-in electric vehicle.
Designed for use as a city commuter car, the B-Zero relies on a 30 Kilowatt-hour lithium-polymer battery to drive its front-mounted electric motor. The battery's charge is preserved by a regenerative braking system that relies on a bank of capacitors to temporarily store the electric current generated by slowing the car.
While capacitors have little to offer when it comes to storing an electrical charge, they can absorb and release electrons much faster than a battery. By using capacitors, the B-Zero can capture more electrical energy from regenerative braking and deliver more energy to boost acceleration from a standstill.
The B-Zero is also equipped with a bank of solar cells across the roof and nose to continually charge the battery via ambient light. All told, a single charge will provide 153 miles of range with a maximum speed of 80 miles per hour, according to Pininfarina.
Pininfarina expects to start production of the B-Zero in late 2009, though that date may slip if battery production is slowed. The company claims the battery pack will last for 125,000 miles.
As more extended-range electric vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles come to market, we draw closer to a viable post-gasoline future — one that combines the mobility we expect with the benefit of low or no emissions.
While the process of recycling lithium batteries at the end of their lives remains an issue, the B-Zero remains a solution to 21st century urban mobility.