The MILA Concept version showcased at the IAA is a single-seater sports car with a mid-engine and rear-wheel drive. Magna Steyr is not only using the MILA Concept as further proof of its “complete vehicle competence” that has gone into so many successful production vehicles, but also to demonstrate its engineers’ creativity and their skill in meeting innovative and technically demanding challenges.

Magna Steyr is confident that natural gas will gain more and more ground as an alternative fuel for road vehicles in the future. A study by the German Automotive Industry Association published in Frankfurt recently came to the conclusion that in Germany alone some two million natural gas vehicles will be licensed in the next 15 years. According to the study, natural gas vehicles could reach a market share of around 4% by the year 2020.

CNG is available today in sufficient quantities and has many advantages over automotive gas (i.e. butane or propane). It provides, for example, higher antiknock quality and only has to be cleaned, filtered and dried before use, while automotive gas can only be obtained using complex refinery processes.

Engines reach a higher degree of efficiency with CNG than with gasoline (up to 32% compared with 25%). What’s more, under the stringent Californian emission legislation of 2004, a CNG vehicle belongs to the eco-friendly AT-PZEV category (Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle).

Irrespective of the MILA Concept, which is an initial important step in the right direction, Magna Steyr will focus more on the development of natural gas engines in the future. Here the company’s engineers will benefit from Magna Steyr’s long-standing experience in the field and specific technical expertise in the development and manufacture of fuel tanks and fuelling systems. The engine used in the MILA Concept, installed in the rear as a mid-engine, is a standard 1.6-litre four-cylinder model that was converted to monovalent CNG operation, which means it will run on natural gas alone. Apart from installing CNG-specific injection valves, no other modifications had to be carried on the original gasoline engine. Its maximum power of 110 kW (150 hp) gives the concept vehicle a top speed of over 200 km/h and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds.

The fuel tank is a composite CNG safety pressure cylinder (aluminium liner wrapped with carbon fibre) and located safely behind the driver’s seat should there be a crash. In the version on show at the IAA, the tank volume is 76 litres, which gives the vehicle a driving range of around 200 km at any one time.

The attractive, Class-A stampings made of glass-reinforced polyester designed by the Magna Steyr Styling Department conceal an ultramodern, extra light and extra stiff space frame in 6000 series aluminium alloy – weighing only around 100 kg. The entire chassis is a lightweight construction made of high-strength steel. Given the consistent lightweight design throughout, the complete vehicle weighs in at around 850 kg.

The current version of the MILA Concept experimental vehicle has a closed body with a Perspex bubble over the driver. If the vehicle goes into volume production at a later date, a three-part bubble made of laminated glass would be conceivable instead of the Plexiglas one.

Since a basic principle in Magna Steyr’s corporate strategy is not to market any vehicles of its own, the MILA Concept does not involve any plans or proposals to build a vehicle under the Magna Steyr brand. In fact, the company is seeking an OEM as a partner in the promising MILA Concept project with a view to jointly turning it into a production mature and marketable vehicle. Magna Steyr estimates the time required for production development to be about 23 months.

Presenting the MILA Concept at IAA 2005 is primarily intended as living proof of the comprehensive range of services provided by Magna Steyr’s development engineers. It is also aimed at gauging public opinion: how will the experts and IAA visitors react to a vehicle of this type?

The custom-built show car on display at the IAA naturally works and can be driven at any time. After the IAA, Magna Steyr is also considering giving the media and OEM representatives the opportunity to test drive the vehicle.

It only took six months to completely develop and build the vehicle on show. All the development steps up to the complete concept vehicle were modelled virtually – including crash performance, fatigue strength, ergonomics, thermal analysis, aerodynamics, etc.

Text and photos courtesy of Magna Steyr