The automotive world might be going electrification mad right now, but the MG TF 200 HPD concept of 2003 shows that MG Rover was investigating in this technology.
More than a decade ago, the company realised the benefits of hybrid drivetrains for sports cars long before they became fashionable.
The Electrified MG TF
The public’s perception of the hybrid in the early 2000s was one of a boring, low-speed economy car. The original worthy but dull Toyota Prius have tended to reinforce that perception, and that’s why the MG TF 200 HPD should have been bigger news than it was when it was first unveiled as a concept on 23 October 2003.
But in 2003, diesel sales were booming in Europe as drivers were told that low-CO2 cars were the way forward, which in turn helped push these more economical cars into the mainstream – and towards 50 per cent market penetration. Hybrids, on the other hand, occupied a tiny slice of the market – who would want one of those things?
MG Rover clearly thought otherwise…
Why hybrid for a sports car?
MG Rover’s Engineering Team realised that, although European buyers were falling in love with the diesel, this was not the ideal drivetrain solution for a sports car. When one considers that the petrol/electric hybrid actually has fewer down sides than the diesel powered car, the popularity of the concept should be assured.
And as such – as a toe-in-the-water exercise, and rolling testbed – MG Rover used the as a vehicle to try and take the petrol/electric hybrid a step closer to mass acceptance. The parallel-hybrid TF 200 HPD might have looked fairly standard, but it used a supplementary electric motor to deliver extra performance, at little cost to fuel consumption.
MG Rover chose MIRA’s (Motor Industry Research Association) ‘Clean racing conference’ as the venue for the TF 200 HPD’s launch; a perfect venue, given that MIRA’s Engineers worked closely with MG Rover in order to produce the car. As can be seen from the accompanying under bonnet photograph (above), the electric motor was housed at the front of the MG TF, normally where one might be expected to pack their toothbrush on a weekend’s jaunt.
What did all this mean for performance?
The additional electric motor produced 39bhp, which was fed to the front wheels. This gave the TF 200 HPD the combined output of 197bhp (200hp) that its name implied. It also meant that 25 per cent of the car’s power was fed through the front wheels.
The hybrid system of power pack and motor was combined with MG Rover’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which was capable of, ‘extending opportunities for advanced all-wheel drive active torque distribution.’
So, in essence, the MG TF 200 HPD was a four-wheel-drive machine, without the disadvantages of carrying a propshaft, extra differentials and the weight that these items add to an overall package. In terms of numbers, the effects of the additional power and traction dropped the 0-60mph time to below 6.0 seconds.
Boosting power responsibly
According to Development Director, Rob Oldaker, ‘MG Rover Group anticipates the potential of using hybrid technology to boost performance responsibly and to offer a range of additional functional benefits that include all-wheel drive and city mode capability.’ This was backed up by the prototype’s City and hot shift modes…
It was clear even at this stage, that there were implications – and possibilities – for performance tuning. Back in 1998, McLaren proved that a regenerative system worked in F1 cars; energy produced by the braking system was stored in a small battery, so why not develop push-to-pass technology for road cars? Why, indeed.
This could be translated into extra power when the driver needed it by simply pressing a button. MG Rover’s press release for the HPD indicated that the company was thinking along the same lines: ‘One potential motor sport application envisaged could use the battery pack to provide a finite number of boosted acceleration cycles, allowing evenly matched drivers to overtake and stimulate spectator appeal.’ Sound familiar?
What became of it?
MG Rover and MIRA were both keen to stress that the TF 200 HPD concept was more than a motor show flight of fancy; and that hybrid cars were under development at Longbridge.
In October 2003, the two companies – along with Powertrain Ltd – were awarded a contract to develop these concepts into production viable passenger cars by the Government’s Energy Saving Trust.
However, after MG Rover went into administration, nothing more was heard of the MG TF 200 HPD. Except, of course, that the market is swimming with hybrids, and that Rover’s one-time partner, Honda, now sells a rather desirable hybrid sports car in the shape of the NSX. And in China, MG Rover’s successor to the MG badge now sells rather a lot of of hybrid Roewe hybrids in its home market…
The TF 200 HPD represents another of MG Rover’s innovative ideas and engineering projects that could all too easily be lost to history.
MG TF 200 HPD Concept specifications
- K-Series 158bhp, 1.8-litre VVC petrol engine driving rear wheels
- 39bhp high-output electric motor driving front wheels, through CVT drivetrain
- (LMC200 D127 Motor)
- Engine-driven generator
- Hawker SBS8 battery pack delivers 72v at 400 amps
- BRUSA BRMD 506 motor controller
- Mathworks XPC vehicle management
- Aerodynamic Cd 0.32, zero front and rear lift
- 50/50 weight distribution