It was already well known that Remy will be supplying AMP with electric motors and controllers for their electric car conversions. But on August 10, 2010, Jay Pittas, the President of Remy and Steve Burns of AMP sat down in Pendleton, IN to sign an official three year contract to supply electric motors for Amp’s Electric Equinox.
I was lucky enough to be present at the event, which proved to be as informative as it was entertaining.
Remy’s headquarters is located about 20 minutes north of Indianapolis, IN, situated among acres of corn fields and your typical Indiana rural scenery. Once you turn the corner around a wooded area, a massive parking lot opens up and you see pretty much what you expect a midwest corporate headquarters to look like: an expansive 4 story concrete structure. I was the first media there, so I really didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps I got the scoop on the local media, or Indiana really doesn’t care much for electric vehicles yet. The first arrivals were herded to the board room, and I schmoozed as much as I could with energy consultants and publicity firm employees. Eventually, the AMP team showed up, fresh off of their performance at the Automotive X Prize competition, where they reached the finals. Finally, some local reporters and media outlets arrived with the big cameras and we were ready to begin the ceremony.
Jay Pittas of Remy started the formalities. Solidifying his belief in the AMP Equinox because, “A mother can actually take a couple kids to a soccer game, and it would be a practical vehicle.” Steve Burns then stated the importance of the motor as the “heart and soul” of the electric vehicle because an inefficient one can kill the battery life. Steve reiterated how grateful he was to find such a cheap motor, then corrected himself, describing it as inexpensive, to laughs from the crowd. Overall, the two executives were very happy with the deal, and the two signed the contracts. One Remy employee wisecracked about how Pittas should not forget to move a decimal place over on the price.
Next we were encouraged to come downstairs to the entrance for interviews with the employees and to test drive the AMP Equinox and the AMP Sky that were driven at the Progressive Automotive X Prize.
I got to talk to various AMP employees including the CEO, Steve Burns. They have already delivered a few cars to early customers. Several fleet owners have asked to purchase more conversion vehicles than AMP can put out right now. It sounds like the general consensus is that they are more than happy to continue retrofitting American vehicles, and they have no plans of manufacturing an original electric car yet. Research and development for electric vehicles is an arduous and expensive process. AMP bypasses this by retrofitting tried and tested, select American cars.
The AMP electric car conversion process is very simple. You can reserve your AMP, Equinox, or Solstice at AMPElectricVehicles.com. They purchase the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle, take out the old parts, and install the electric drive-train, which has already been measured and weighed so that it doesn’t alter the original safety and handling specifications. It is pretty much a bolt-in operation, and the components fit right into place on the select vehicles, so you cannot just ask them to electrify your ’86 Camaro. If someone were to purchase one of AMP’s vehicles today, Burns says the car would be converted and ready in about a month.
Steve Burns and other employees all noted how receiving empty shells or “gliders” from GM would drastically reduce the price of the vehicles. Not only would they not have to buy the original ICE drivetrain, but it would reduce assembly time. Burns said using glider donors could reduce the price of the AMP Equinox from $50,000 to somewhere in the $30,000 range. So you would be getting a full size electric SUV for around the same price as the compact Nissan Leaf. The Equinox would also have a greater electric range than the Leaf. The problem is getting companies like GM to agree to selling these empty shells.
The electric vehicle industry has always had a stark divide between the small and willing, and the behemoth car manufacturers that do not lend themselves to change. Hopefully, more American companies like AMP and Remy can create powerful partnerships to give the people a choice in the way they drive.
Next Post: I get to drive the Equinox, then I go for a wild ride in the Amp Sky (0-60 in 6 seconds).