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Electric Success?

Coming electrics are fast

Compiled by Julian Edgar

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There’s now a whole bunch of companies working on electric car concepts. Some are sports cars, some are commuters and some appear dependent on technology not even yet developed. It’s a fair bet to say that most will never be successful – not in terms of the tens of millions of internal combustion engine cars produced annually.

But, that said, let’s take a look at what’s in the wind.


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About the sexiest electric car concept going into production is the Tesla. It’s attracted a huge amount of publicity and some very high profile promoters.

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Tech specs of the driveline, licensed from AC Propulsion (see below), include an 185kW 3-phase 4-pole electric motor that revs to 13,500 rpm and a 2-speed electrically-actuated manual transmission.

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The battery is lithium ion and is made up of 6,831 cells.

The Lotus-developed chassis uses double unequal length wishbone suspension and AP racing brakes. Kerb weight is proposed to be 1225kg and performance includes a 0- 60 mph (97 km/h) time of “about 4 seconds”. Top speed is over 210 km/h and range is quoted as a high 320 kilometres.

Tesla is taking orders with a base price of US$98,000.



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AC Propulsion is a California corporation founded by Alan Cocconi in 1992 to develop, manufacture, and license technology for electric propulsion.

The company’s best known electric vehicle is the T-Zero concept. AC Propulsion built three prototype T-Zeros, and considered selling T-Zeros to the public, but production plans were dropped in mid-2003.

The design, which was able to accelerate to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.1 seconds, used a 160kW, 4-pole, 3-phase electric motor driving the wheels through a fixed ratio gearbox. The initial battery pack comprised fifty 7.4-volt lead acid modules weighing 90kg. The complete car weighed just 1140kg. The battery pack was later changed to lithium ion, increasing range from 130 to 480 kilometres and dropping the 60 mph time to an incredible 3.6 seconds.



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AC Propulsion is now marketing the eBox, a Toyota Scion XB converted to electric power.

The eBox uses an AC induction motor developing a peak power of 120kW and a continuous power of 50kW. The battery pack, which weighs 270kg, is lithium ion and has a 35 kW/h capacity. Independent testing shows that 0-100 km/h comes up in 7.54 seconds and the standing quarter mile is completed in 15.75 seconds. Kerb weight is 1350kg and the vehicle has a range of 190 – 240 kilometres.

The conversion costs a considerable US$55,000.



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Brazil isn’t normally seen as the home of automotive innovation but the Obvio electric cars look extremely impressive – on-screen at least. Developed in conjunction with Lotus Engineering, the Obvios have front and side airbags and a patented 3-ring structural safety system.

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The 828E has a mass of 600kg, a length of 2650mm, height of 1500mm and a width of 1650mm. Body panels are plastic with an interior (aluminium?) monocoque chassis.

The 828E uses a 120kW 13,0000 rpm electric motor. The battery is lithium ion and has a 39kWh rating; it weighs 260kg. Range is listed at 320 – 390 kilometres and acceleration is said to be 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in a stunning 4.5 seconds – which would make it easily the fastest tiny car in the world.

Estimated retail price is US$49,000

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The 012E has the same driveline but uses a more sporting body. Wheels are 19 inch and kerb weight is 750kg. Top speed is variably listed at 190 or 260 km/h – rather a difference! Estimated retail price is US$59,000

In fact, to be frank, the Obvio website is pretty weird – but some of that might be the language translation.

Obvio www.obvio.ind


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Another electric car with input from Lotus Engineering, the Zap-X looks a real stunner.

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The driveline uses four hub motors with a total power of 480kW. Nought to 60 mph (97 km/h) is said to be achieved in 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 250 km/h.

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Based on the Lotus APX concept car first displayed in 2006 at the Geneva Motor Show, the all-aluminium car uses lithium ion batteries said to give 560 kilometres per charge. Re-charge time is claimed to be just 10 minutes and super-capacitors are used to provide short-term energy supply peaks.

No proposed price is available.



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The Zap Xebra might not be to everyone’s taste (although note it’s available in colour schemes other than the one pictured!) but it has one killer advantage: you can buy it right now. A three-wheeled city-only car, the Xebra uses lead-acid batteries and has a range of only 40 kilometres.

Top speed is 65 km/h and motor power isn’t quoted – but it’s not going to be much. Weight is 820kg and the price is US$10,500. Solar powered and delivery truck versions are also available.


Chevrolet Volt

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Not a pure electric car but capable of substantially greater electric range than current hybrids, the Volt uses a constant speed, E85-fuelled, 1-litre 3-cylinder turbo engine and an electric motor. The maximum electric power is “130 – 140kW” and the maximum mechanical power is 120kW. (However, rather confusingly, the continuous maxima are listed at 45 and 40kW, respectively.)

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The lithium ion battery pack has a recharge time of about six hours and the electric-only range is 64 kilometres. Top speed is 193 km/h. Wheels are no less than 21 inches in diameter. However, General Motors says that commercialisation of the Volt is predicated on developments in lithium ion battery technology.


Wrightspeed X1

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The Wrightspeed X1 concept takes the best of current technology and combines it into one car. AC Propulsion provides the 3-phase AC induction motor and converter, while Ariel provides the Atom-based chassis. The result is a weight of just 698kg and a tested performance that includes 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.07 seconds, 0-100 mph (161 km/h) in 6.87 seconds and a 1.3g maximum lateral acceleration.

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The motor is rated at 176kW and 250Nm of torque is available from 0 – 6000 rpm. A single gear ratio (8.25:1) is used and rear diff is a Quaife LSD. The lithium ion battery pack is rated at 25 kWh and range is about 160 kilometres.

The company says that production cars will use much the same technology – and be as fast – but will meet the safety regulations the prototype does not. No proposed price is listed.


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