I had the pleasure of attending the EV Press Conference on the second press day of the 2010 New York Auto Show. The event was right after Mitsubishi’s press conference, filled with loud indie rock, light shows, and the big reveal of their new crossover. The EV press event was much more low key, and really a sequence of rapid fire, five minute speeches from five EV companies. Amp Electric Vehicles, Mini, Mitsubishi, Think, and PEP Stations all gave a quick rundown of their vehicles, goals, and innovations.
First up was Steve Burns, CEO of Amp Electric Vehicles. Amp does high quality conversions of domestic ICE vehicles to 100% electric drive. The Midwestern team is currently converting the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox as well as 2007-2009 Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice convertibles. They brought a converted Sky and Equinox, which were definitely the sexiest looking electric cars driving around at the show.
Anyways, Steve Burns focused on the Equinox, a SUV that truly shows that electric vehicles are just as capable as their internal combustion predecessors. The Amp Equinox crossover has a 150 mile range, 90 mile per hour top speed, and a 0-60 mph acceleration of 8 seconds. Burns attributed this exceptional performance to the Remy electric motor. Remy has made over a billion motors of all sorts around the world, and they are bringing their legacy to the electric drivetrain. It is exciting to see established internal combustion companies adapt and apply their expertise to electric drive applications. The Amp presenters suspiciously omitted the price of their Equinox, so I’ll include it here: $50,000, more than twice the price of a 2010 Chevy Equinox.
Next up, a BMW spokesman gave a short presentation for the Mini E. He briefed us on the specs for the highway capable EV with a 100 mile range, and “go kart-like handling.” The Mini E is already being leased to select drivers, and he announced they have extended the lease for another year, with over 50% of the leasers renewing. More interestingly, he noted BMW’s Project i. Which will catalyze more applications of electric drive trains in BMW vehicles, like the 1 Series coupe. They already revealed the BMW ActiveE concept at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show. The ActiveE will pack a 170 horsepower electric motor in a 1 Series, to give it similar specs to the Mini E, but lets hope they give us some trunk space.
Product Planning Manager, Brian Arnett gave us the rundown on their plans for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Sounds like they are pretty far along already in the east, with 1,400 cars sold to Japanese fleets. The 80 mile range highway capable EV will retail in Japan this month. Mitsubishi hopes to introduce the the i-MiEV to the US in Fall 2011. They are already creating partnerships with companies in the US, like Best Buy (Geek Squad cars), and California Electric (for EV infrastructure).
John Harmon represented Think North America next. The company plans to begin manufacturing the THINK City in Elkhart, Ind. beginning in early 2011. The Think City will have a range of 100 miles, and a top speed of 70 mph. The two seater also has a large cargo area in its recently redesigned rear.
Finally, Brady Blaine, Vice President of Pep Stations, elaborated on their goal to supply America with an electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This is obviously easier said than done, but the premise is simple. PEP (Plug-in Electric Power) has designed a simple charging station they hope to sell to malls, rest centers, gyms, and everywhere else people park their cars. Patrons can park their electric cars, charge up in 1 to 5 hours, and drive away with a full battery.
In summary, the EV press conference characterized how the electric vehicle industry is slowly making its way to the mainstream. Cars like the i-MiEV, Think City, and Nissan Leaf are practically designed, have ample cargo space, and have more than enough range for 90% of Americans. These cars will be on our roads, in our showrooms, and charging in our garages within the next year. The concept cars of two years ago are finally becoming a reality, and I was thankful to see and drive them at the 2010 New York Auto Show.
Usually, at auto shows you will find abstract concepts of electric cars that are so far fetched, nobody takes them seriously. This year at the New York Auto Show, companies like Mitsubishi, Mini, Think, and Amp Motorworks are changing the regular programming by providing press and public test drives of highway capable electric vehicles. In the 2010 auto show, electric cars like the Mini E and the i-MiEV are already on the road, leased to select test markets and certain fleet and government patrons.
The electric vehicle test drive track is in the EV Pavilion at the back of the bottom floor, but it will surely be a crowd pleaser when the auto show opens up to the public April 2-11. When I arrived, only 2 electric vehicles, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Mini E, were circling the winding track. I had to “sign my life away” on some contract that relieved them of any responsibility for any bodily harm I might inflict on myself while I played Dukes of Hazard with the EVs. They also made me swear not to go take it over 15 mph. It was an indoor go kart track, after all. Then I was ready to drive some electric powered machines.
First up was the Mini E. This mighty mouse has a good amount of power, 200 HP, and that is with a 100% torque electric motor, so it really picks up. With an electronically regulated top speed of 95 mph, and a 150 mile range (told 100 by the spokeswoman, oddly, perhaps realistically), this car can get you anywhere you need to go, fast.
Here is what I didn’t like. I sat in the driver’s seat, looked back, and saw this:
This is about neck high, right behind the drivers seat. It is the battery pack. Not only is this a two-seater, but it is a two-seater with the storage space of a Vespa. I contemplated the Mini E’s practicality watching press groups load up the 5-passenger i MiEV.
Moment of truth.
I took the car out of park, following the instructions of the Mini spokeswoman in the passenger seat. No lurch. The car does not lurch forward in drive like your typical ICE vehicle. Once you get moving, drives much like a car in first gear all the time, meaning it is very torque-ee. You accelerate, let off the gas (electricity) and you rapidly decelerate because of the strong regenerative braking. I had heard about this being an issue with the Mini E, so it was pretty much what I expected. It makes me wonder if the big sacrifice in momentum is worth the electricity regained.
Anyway the car accelerated great on the miniature straightaway. I would love to see what the Mini E could do on an interstate on-ramp instead of an indoor track.
Honestly, I am still uncomfortable pronouncing this one aloud (i Meeve or i Me-ehv).
But I am picking this one as the winner in this EV battle. Here’s why:
Yes, this is a fully equipped, four door family EV. The cabin was so spacious, I could not believe they fit a lithium ion battery in there, which is hidden flat under the car.
This will not compete with the Mini E on the track though. It will get you 0-60 in 13 seconds, has a top speed of 80 mph, and has a 100 mile range. But I could not even fit my backpack into the Mini E with another person in the car. I could get married, have a couple kids, and take them all to soccer practice in the i-MiEV. The i-MiEV makes such good use of the space it has, and is just smartly designed for what it is, a family commuter vehicle.
Not only is the i MiEV more spacious, but it rides more comfortably too. The car creeps forward in drive like a traditional vehicle, and the regenerative braking is much more natural. The car kind of coasts when you lift off of the accelerator. The interior space and user friendly drive make the i-MiEV the winner in this EV showdown.
Anyone who happens to be in the area of New York City the next few days should definitely come to the Javits Center to get a first hand experience in these fascinating new electric vehicles that are becoming more and more real every day. I’ll leave you with a rough video I took of some of the action on the track later in the day:
Stay tuned for upcoming articles detailing electric car test drives and press conferences from the 2010 New York Auto Show.
I just test drove the Mini E and the Mitsubishi iMiev, and I can honestly say I was impressed with both, but one was the clear favorite. A thorough review will be coming soon.
I will also write a full review of my test drive of the new Amp Motorworks Electric Equinox. A 100% electric SUV.
Thanks for reading!
Autobloggreen.com had an interesting article today on another electric car that will be utilizing the AC Propulsion drivetrain that has been found in the likes of the GM EV1, Tzero, Telsa Roadster, eBox, and Venturi Fetish:
While we were discussing the upcoming premiere of the new MINI E at the LA Auto Show, we mused that the retro-cute might be sporting a drivetrain courtesy of Tesla Motors. Now comes word via Paul Scott at the new website for the film, “Revenge of the Electric Car” that the MINI will get its gumption from the good folks at AC Propulsion. This may make the MINI spiritually related to the Tesla Roadster, as it was the ACP prototype, the tzero, that served as an inspiration of sorts for the creation of the now-iconic two-seater, but, as they will share no parts, the relationship is purely metaphysical. Indeed, the only current link between ACP and Tesla is the licensing of a “reductive charging” patent.
This revelation does tell us a little something about how the MINI E will be to drive. As those who have gripped the wheel of the ACP eBox know, the re-gen effect is quite strong on this system. While it’s great for getting extra range out of the battery pack, it may take a little getting used to for some drivers. The effect is not unlike the engine braking experienced with a manually shifted car and occurs as one relieves the go-pedal of downward pressure. Once adjusted to the re-gen, the experience of motoring in the MINI E should be excellent and we look forward to being able to confirm that. For the benefit of our readers, of course.
This is exciting news, as every car utilizing this technology has been a highway capable EV, with superior performance, and range. If you’re going to put your money on an fully electric vehicle, I suggest it be one with an AC Propulsion drivetrain, based on its past history.
BMW announced this last week that they will be revealing their purely electric, MINI E at the Los Angeles Auto show. Previously, they had planned a hybrid mini, but they seem to be jumping on the all-electric drivetrain bandwagon along with Chrysler, Chevy, Mitsubishi, and Nissan, to name a few. The MINI E comes with impressive performance specs:
MINI E SPECS:
150 miles range per 8-hour charge
Consumption 4.4 miles/kWh
204-hp & 162 lb-ft of torque
0-60 bit over 8 seconds
Top speed electronically limited to 95mph
572-pound lithium ion battery
3,200 pounds total weight
Lithium pack maximum capacity 35kWh.
Nominal 380 Volts to motor.
Contains 5,088 cells grouped into 48 modules.
The MINI E will be available to test customers in New York, New Jersey and California by early 2009. BMW plans to lease 500 cars to customers for one year with an extension option. The monthly payments cover all maintenance and other technical service. At the end of the lease, all the cars will be returned to BMW’s engineering fleet for testing and evaluation. Hopefully they do not meet the same fate as the GM EV1.
All of the pilot cars are painted metallic dark silver, with a pure silver roof. In addition, the cars all sport a serial number on their front fenders, as well as a stylized yellow logo on the roof, the charger port lid and other locations.
If you would like to sign up for the test lease, you can head over to MINIspace.com, where you can be “considered”. Undoubtedly, it will be a lottery as to who is lucky enough to get one. Price and payment options have not been revealed yet. For more info, see the press release below.
A NEW EXPERIENCE – DRIVING PLEASURE WITHOUT EMISSIONS: THE MINI E
Woodcliff Lake, NJ – October 18, 2008… The BMW Group will be the world’s first manufacturer of premium automobiles to deploy a fleet of some 500 all-electric vehicles for private use in daily traffic. The MINI E will be powered by a 150 kW (204 hp) electric motor fed by a high-performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery, transferring its power to the front wheels via a single-stage helical gearbox nearly without a sound and entirely free of emissions. Specially engineered for automobile use, the battery technology will have a range of more than 240 kilometers, or 150 miles. The MINI E will initially be made available to select private and corporate customers as part of a pilot project in the US states of California, New York and New Jersey. The possibility of offering the MINI E in Europe as well is currently being considered. The MINI E will give its world premiere at the Los Angeles Auto Show on November 19 and 20, 2008.
The MINI E’s electric drive train produces a peak torque of 220 Newton meters, delivering seamless acceleration to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 8.5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 152 km/h (95 mph). Featuring a suspension system tuned to match its weight distribution, the MINI E sports the brand’s hallmark agility and outstanding handling.
By introducing the MINI E, the BMW Group is underscoring the resolve with which it works towards reducing energy consumption and emissions in road traffic. The BMW Group is drawing on its unique technological expertise in the field of drive systems to develop a vehicle concept enabling zero emissions without renouncing the joy of driving. Putting some 500 cars on the road under real daily traffic conditions will make it possible to gain widely applicable hands-on experience. Evaluating these findings will generate valuable know-how, which will be factored into the engineering of mass-produced vehicles.
The BMW Group aims to start series production of all-electric vehicles over the medium term as part of its Number ONE strategy. The development of innovative concepts for mobility in big-city conurbations within the scope of “project i” has a similar thrust, as its objective also includes making use of an all-electric power train.
The energy storage unit: cutting-edge lithium-ion technology engineered specifically for use in the MINI.
Based on the current MINI, the car will initially be available as a two-seater. The space taken up by back-seat passengers in the series model has been reserved for the lithium-ion battery. When in use in the zero-emissions MINI, the battery unit combines high output with ample storage capacity and a small footprint with power ratios that are unrivalled in this field of application so far. The lithium-ion storage unit will have a maximum capacity of 35 kilowatt hours (kWh) and transmit energy to the electric motor as direct current at a nominal 380 volts. The rechargeable battery is made up of 5,088 cells grouped into 48 modules. These modules are packaged into three battery elements that are compactly arranged inside the MINI E.
The energy storage unit’s basic components are based on the technological principle that has proven itself in practice in power supplies for mobile phones and portable computers. The MINI E’s lithium-ion battery can be plugged into all standard power outlets. Its charge time is strongly dependent on the voltage and amperage of the electricity flowing through the grid. In the USA, users can recharge a battery that has been completely drained within a very short period of time using a wallbox that will ship with every MINI E. The wallbox will be installed in the customer’s garage, enable higher amperage, and thus provide for extremely short charging times. Wallboxes fully recharge batteries after a mere two-and-a-half hours.
Driven by electricity: reliably, affordably and free of emissions.
A full recharge draws a maximum of 28 kilowatt hours of electricity from the grid. Based on the car’s range, a kilowatt hour translates into 5.4 miles. Besides the benefit of zero-emissions driving, the MINI E thus offers significant economic advantages over a vehicle powered by a conventional internal combustion engine as well.
The heavy-duty battery delivers its power to an electric motor, which transforms it into thrilling agility. Mounted transversely under the MINI E’s bonnet, the drive train unleashes its full thrust from a dead standstill. This provides for the car’s fascinating launch capability. The MINI E’s intense driving experience is augmented by its dynamic deceleration potential, which is also directly coupled to the accelerator pedal. As soon as the driver releases the gas pedal, the electric motor acts as a generator. This results in braking force, and the power recovered from the kinetic energy is fed back to the battery. This interaction ensures extremely comfortable drives – especially at medium speed with constant, but marginal, variation. In city traffic, some 75 percent of all deceleration can be done without the brakes. Making substantial use of this energy recuperation feature extends the car’s range by up to 20 percent.
Signature MINI agility in a new guise.
Weighing in at 1,465 kilograms (3.230 lbs), the MINI E has an even weight distribution. Minor modifications made to the suspension ensure safe handling at all times. The Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system has been adapted to this model’s specific wheel loads.
The MINI E’s brake system comes with a newly developed electric underpressure pump. Its Electrical Power Assisted Steering (EPS) is the same as the one used in mass-produced MINIs. Both brake and steering assistance react to driving conditions and are thus extremely efficient. Even the air conditioning’s electrical compressor only operates if desired or necessary.
Design: unmistakably MINI, undoubtedly new.
At first glance, the MINI E is obviously an iteration of the brand. But its design, which is the blueprint for the zero-emissions two-seater, has been complemented by a number of visual cues that point to its revolutionary drive concept. All of the units produced for the pilot project will have the same paintwork and bear a serial number on their front fenders.
The MINI E’s coachwork sports an exclusive combination of metallic Dark Silver on all panels but the roof, which is clad in Pure Silver. What distinguishes the zero-emissions MINI is a specially designed logo in Interchange Yellow, depicting a stylized power plug in the shape of an “E” set against the silver backdrop. It has been applied to the roof, in smaller dimensions to the front and back, to the charger port lid, the dashboard trim, and – combined with the MINI logo – to the door jamb, in slightly modified form. The color of the roof edges, mirror housings, interior style cues and seat seams will match the logo’s yellow tone as well.
Moreover, the central gauge and the battery level indicator behind the wheel of the MINI E, which replaces the MINI’s rev counter, feature yellow lettering against a dark grey background. The battery level is displayed in percentage figures. The central gauge includes an LED display indicating power consumption in red and power recuperation in green.
MINI E customers will be part of a pioneering mission.
A 500-unit, limited-production MINI E series will be manufactured through the end of 2008. The project will thus attain an order of magnitude that clearly exceeds the size of currently comparable test series. Putting the MINI E on the road on a daily basis will be a pioneering feat to which both the drivers and engineers of the first zero-emissions MINI will contribute as a team.
MINI E customers will join forces with BMW Group experts to assist in the project’s scientific evaluation. MINI E engineers accord high importance to staying in touch with the drivers on a regular basis, as this will help them analyze driver behavior besides vehicle characteristics in order to gain the most accurate and realistic picture of the demands placed on a vehicle with a purely electrical drive in the select usage areas.
Special charging station and full service for every MINI E.
The cars will change hands based on a one-year lease with an extension option. Monthly lease installments will cover any required technical service including all necessary maintenance and the replacement of wearing parts. At the end of the lease, all of the automobiles belonging to the project will be returned to the BMW Group’s engineering fleet where they will be subjected to comparative tests.
The MINI E’s lithium-ion battery can be charged using a wallbox provided to MINI customers. Only lockable garages or similar buildings will qualify as homebases and power stations for the MINI E.
Maintenance by qualified specialists.
The electric drive’s high-voltage technology requires that maintenance work be done by qualified personnel using special tools that are not included in MINI service partners’ standard toolboxes. In light of this, a service base will be set up on both coasts, staffed by service engineers that are specially trained to perform maintenance and repair work on the MINI E’s electrical components. In the event of drive malfunction, these experts will provide professional support at the customer’s local MINI dealer or the service base’s specially equipped workshop. Technical inspections will take place after 3,000 miles (just under 5,000 kilometers) and at least after six months.
Production in Oxford and Munich.
The MINI E has already gone through the major phases of product development for mass-produced vehicles and passed numerous crash tests on the way. Aspects investigated besides passenger protection were the impact of collision forces on the lithium-ion battery and finding a non-hazardous location for it in the car. The MINI E’s energy storage unit emerged completely unscathed from all of the crash tests mandated by US standards, which are especially high.
Production of the approximately 500 cars will take place at the company’s Oxford and Munich sites and is scheduled for completion before the end of 2008. MINI’s UK plant will be responsible for manufacturing the entire vehicle with the exception of the drive components and the lithium-ion battery, with the brand’s series models rolling off its assembly lines concurrently. The units will then be transferred to a specially equipped manufacturing complex situated on BMW plant premises where the electric motor, battery units, performance electronics and transmission will be integrated.