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This is the Peugeot 208 Hybrid FE concept, which made its public debut at the Frankfurt show in September.

Based on the standard-issue supermini, the FE (""˜Fun' and ""˜Economy') is a showcase for a range of new technologies and new ideas that have created a car with emissions officially rated at just 46g/km on the NEDC driving cycle; it's also capable of reaching 62mph in eight seconds from a standing start.

Peugeot engineers (of whom around ten were drafted in from Peugeot Sport) and Total worked together on the concept, which has been taken from a clean sheet of paper to two running mules in just 16 months.

Engineers say that the major engineering work on the standard 208 centred on four areas: improving aerodynamics, reducing overall weight, improving the economy of the petrol engine and adding an electric hybrid system.

""˜Improving aerodynamics' has meant a significant ""“ and very clever ""“ change to the rear of the 208. The FE gets a new tail section, which slots onto the rear of the body, in place of the factory tailgate and bumper. The underneath of the FE is also completely flat and the radiator grille is 40 per cent smaller. The width of the rear end of the car has also been narrowed by 40mm. The upshot is a Cd of 0.25, a 25 per cent reduction in drag.

Peugeot also worked with Total's polymers division and subsidiaries CCP Composites and Hutchinson to develop lightweight composite panels for the 208 factory bodyshell, replacing the skin panels and the floor pressings.

The 20kg outer skin is made in one piece; the bonnet weights 5kg and the wings 2.1kg. The interior mouldings have been made from a mix of polypropylene and natural fibres, saving a remarkable 15kg. The body's weight is reduced from 295kg to 227kg. Polycarbonate windows (doors aside) save another 5kg.

Peugeot and Hutchison have also completely re-thought the suspension system, replacing the McPherson struts and rear beam axle with two large transverse leaf springs.

Made from a glass-fibre resin, the stiffness and flexibility of the ""˜leaf' is tuned along its length. They replace the beam axle at the rear and the lower wishbones and anti-roll bars at the front, as well as the springs front and rear. The new set-up is 20kg lighter.

The 208 FE's engine is based on the company's new three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit, but it has undergone extensive re-engineering. Increased in capacity to 1.2-litres, and running on a Miller Cycle, the compression ratio has been increased from 11:1 to 16:1. Power stays the same, at 68bhp, but torque rises by 25 per cent.

Peugeot's FE engine also features conrods made from titanium and pistons made from an aluminium-copper alloy. Peugeot engineers say that internal friction can consume as much as 20 per cent of an engine's power, so the camshafts, crankshaft, pistons, piston rings and camshaft followers are coated in a ""˜diamond-like carbon coating'.

Total has also developed a new 0W12 ""˜bio-sourced' oil that is much less ""˜sticky' when cold. Overall, the engine weighs just 50kg; 10kg less than the production unit. Because the coolant capacity of the engine is some seven times smaller than the production engine, the radiator is also much smaller, further helping aerodynamic performance. The engine also runs on a new Total-developed high-octane petrol.

The new hybrid system is quite unusual. It couples a relatively small 30kW electric motor (weighing just 7kg) with the Peugeot's automated manual gearbox, using a series of gears, onto the differential. The electric motor not only drives the car in pure-electric mode, it also has the role of providing reverse gear as well as acting as the alternator and starter motor.

What is it like?
Nowhere near to be being completed, but an extremely intriguing piece of engineering.

First off, there's no doubt that the aerodynamic re-styling and extended rear end have been a huge success. The FE looks much more upmarket and assured than the standard 208 and anything but an experimental one-off.

Inside, everything looks normal - except for the rear-view mirror, which holds two images, side by side, from the door mounted rear-view cameras. A large laptop was connected to the dash and there were a bank of small switches mounted low down on the centre console.

Part of the centre console display was a read-out that showed how the power supply to the wheels was divided between the engine and electric motor.

The combination of a low-emissions EU6 petrol engine (saving 11g/km of CO2 over the base 1.0-litre 208), weight reduction and much-improved aerodynamics (together saving 21g/km of CO2, the same reduction offered by the hybrid drivetrain) could offer lower CO2 emissions than a conventional electric vehicle recharged at the mains ""“ and at less than half the showroom price.

Peugeot 208 Hybrid FE concept

Price N/A; Top speed N/A; 0-62mph 8.0sec; Economy 142mpg; CO2 46g/km; Engine 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol and 30kW electric motor; Power 68bhp; Torque 88lb ft; Gearbox 5-spd automated manual

Read the full review here:
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