On the Miles XS500

XS500

There are a lot of things I love about this car: $30,000-$40,000, highway speed ev, 120+ mile driving range. But most of all I love the completely traditional styling. No wings, wheel covers, space age moldings, or anything that screams “I’m different!”. But therein lies the problem with this car; it looks exactly like a 2004 Kia Rio:

Kia Rio

Well gee, I can get one of those for $4000 dollars on eBay. Over 30 mpg, not bad. Do you want to spend ten times that much on a car of similar performance and identical looks? One that you have to explain to skeptical women that it is indeed electric, $40,000, and that you are environmentally compassionate. Now I’m the biggest electric car proponent there is, but I think Miles needs to rethink the exterior of this vehicle that they are raising so much funding for. This car is set to release in late 2009, and has the price and performance to be huge in the American market. It just needs to distinguish itself a little more ala the Zap-X concept or the Th!nk Ox if consumers are going to cross that $30,000 barrier.

On Alan Cocconi

Alan Cocconi

If you follow electric cars you need to be familiar with Alan Cocconi.  As you can plainly see from the picture above, he’s kind of a badass.  He is predominantly responsible for the technology found in the GM EV1; which was ahead of its time, or technology today is behind the times depending on how you look at it.    In his garage he fabricated what was basically a 100,000 watt stereo amplifier that would allow the EV1 to travel 90 miles on a charge, go 0-60 in 7.9 seconds, and have an ungoverned top speed of 123 mph on the test track.   And this was before Lithium-Ion batteries were viable; the EV1 started out with plain old Lead-Acid batteries.  To this day, first generation EV1’s would still be completely cutting edge and capable electric cars.  The EV1 was only leased, but estimated retail was $30,000- $40,000. This lease agreement allowed GM to take them back to be subsequently crushed, but we got the movie, Who Killed the Electric Car?, out of the whole ordeal.

Anyways, so what happened to Alan? Well he’s still in the electric car business.  Unfortunately he has not been contracted to work on major project to the extent he did at GM.  But the company he founded in 1992, AC Propulsion, is a major player in the electric car market today.  The first AC Propulsion Tzero was built in 1996. Like the EV1, the Tzero had a range of about 90 miles, but could rocket from 0-60 in 4 seconds, making it the first electric supercar. By 2003, a second generation Tzero was born, packing lightweight Lithium-Ion batteries instead of Lead-Acid. This gave the Tzero an ev range of a whopping 300 miles. If that wasn’t enough, a trailer mounted generator could be attached to the back to extend the range even further. Seen here:

Tzero and trailer

Well the Tzero never made it to production, unfortunately.  Out of the Tzero, and the potential of the Lithium Ion battery, came the concept for the eBox.  Basically, AC Propulsion converts customer-owned Scion xBs by removing the internal combustion engine and related components and installing the AC Propulsion electric drive system and battery. You can do this now, but you have to provide the $15K Scion and another $55K for them to convert it. Undoubtedly, if AC Propulsion operated on a larger scale, this could be done for less than half that. Tom Hanks was pretty enthused about this one:

But the real legacy of AC Propulsion and Alan Cocconi stems from that 100,000 watt amp. The AC Propulsion drivetrain that Cocconi developed has evolved, and is now used in the Venturi Fetish, Wrightspeed X1, and the Tesla Roadster. All of which are on the cutting edge of electric vehicle technology and have inspired others to design future concepts.

On the Ultimate Aero EV

Ultimate Aero

Shelby SuperCars, or SSC, is an American supercar company founded by Jarod Shelby. The automaker and founder have no relation to Shelby Automobiles, the performance Mustang outfitter. However they have built up a recent amount of publicity of their own with the Ultimate Aero, the current Guinness World Record holder for fastest production car. A cool video on that here. The EV version will likely be an exact replica, but replacing the twin turbo V8 with one or two powerful electric motors; they have not decided. Nor have they decided whether to make the car rear or all-wheel drive, which will most likely be determined by the electric motor configuration. But they do believe the car will be finished and delivered as early as the end of 2009. Oh yeah, there’s rumors that they have come up with a miraculous power source that allows years between charges.

Basically, they haven’t put anything together yet, but they are already claiming to have the most powerful electric car in the world, even though the company has no experience with electric vehicles. Coincidentally, they are now accepting outside capital from celebrities and A-list financiers. Hmm. This article best describes my feelings right now. Although, the nature of electric automobiles recently seems to be that you are more likely to see a fantastic one that breaks speed records, than a standard ev for under $40,000.

Lightning GT to be Unveiled in UK

Lightning GT

The Lightning GT will be displayed at the British Motor Show on July 23. Some say the Lightning GT is simply the British version of the Tesla Roadster, however besides costing over twice as much, the GT has a few other key differences.

1) According to Chris Dell, the managing director of Lightning, the car should be roomier than the Tesla. Even though it is a two-seater as well.
2) There are 4 electric motors at each wheel, as opposed to the Tesla Roadster’s single motor driving the back wheels. This is the same concept that is utilized in the Eliica. This means no axle or drive shaft is necessary and you have all-wheel drive, all the time.
3) The batteries are dispersed around the car to give it optimum weight balance, instead of putting them in one big box like the Roadster.

Both the Roadster and the GT claim 0-60 times of about 4 seconds, hopefully this will be resolved on the track someday in the near future.

Fisker Contracts Valmet Automotive to Manufacture Karma

Fisker Karma

Valmet Automotive is a brand-independent, specialty car manufacturer in Finland. They manufacture some cars for Porsche, i.e. the Cayman and Boxster. So keep these guys in mind if you want to start your own electric car company. Fisker and Valmet plan to churn out 15,000 cars annually with the first cars to be delivered at the end of 2009. The price is now around $80,000 for a gas free, emission free, 0-60 in 5.8, 125 mph top speed supercar. Looks like Tesla has some real competition on their hands.

On the Eliica

Eliica

No, this isn’t the gag Funny Car you saw at the county strip. Although it is every bit as fast, making a Porsche 911 Turbo and a Mitsubishi Lancer YouTube fodder.

Eliica stands for Electric Lithium-Ion Car, and you will most likely never see it on the street. This 640 hp monster was developed by a team at the University of Keio in Tokyo, Japan. It boasts a 0-62 time of 4 seconds and is capable of cruising up to 230 mph. This is no small feat for a car that weighs over 5000 pounds, due mainly to the Lithium-Ion batteries that line the undercarriage. This power is needed to activate the 8 electric motors, one for each of the eight wheels. Each motor is 80 hp, hence the 640 hp total output. Only about 200 cars will be made, given the right amount of corporate sponsorship. And each will be sold for $240,000.

However, this car is more of a statement than anything else. What combustion vehicle do you know can seat five people comfortably, out sprint a Porsche, and travel 230 mph almost silently. The Eliica bypasses limits that are set on normal combustion engine vehicles. You cannot put eight engines on a station wagon; the input, exhaust, and cooling system necessary are only the beginning of your troubles. Electric motors are much more flexible, and Lithium-Ion batteries will inevitably improve. We’ve reached the limits of combustion engine capabilities given their century old, antiquated design. Still, automakers claim the technology for electric cars is not here yet. If a team at Keio University can design and build this wonder with a measly $320,000, I think the technology is here; and its in Tokyo.

Below is the first clip of a five part series on the Eliica. They’re very informative, and you can find the rest on YouTube if you can get through all the languages being thrown around.