Saturday, 30 June 2007

UK Company's Revolutionary Electric Vehicle.

I have just come across a UK company that has created a plug-in series hybrid car that has 900 miles range and can do 150mph. It is based on the BMW Mini.

The 900 miles range is achieved by total braking regeneration and a small 250cc petrol generator. Without the generator operating, the car has about a 200 mile range from its lithium-polymer batteries which is suitable for 99% of the time, I would suspect.

The vehicle has 4 hub-mounted 160bhp motors giving a total of 640bhp, which explains the 150mph top speed and the 4.5sec 0-60mph time. This might sound excessive, but, correct me if I am wrong, I'd say this explains the ability to perform total regeneration. A feeble car like the Prius can NEVER regenerate sufficiently as its motor can only generate so much power and so only suck back in so much power. This puppy can suck back in 640bhp during braking and I suspect a little more for short spells. I'd think twice when sitting at the top of some gorge in the South of France with a full battery, though - where is all the energy to go? (it has no mechanical brakes!).

From what I can gather, the vehicle has significant trickery in the motor and battery management, vital to be able to shove back in all that power during braking and to be able to pull out the maximum energy without melting the battery pack. This is the real sauce that makes the dish, I suspect. That, and making the hub motors last long enough - the unsprung wheel rim is not the ideal place for delicate electronics!

Still, the basic concept of generator charging a battery and having 4 hub-mounted electric motors giving rapid performance is not entirely new. Ferdinand Porsche built such a vehicle while working for the Lohner 1903. The vehicle had a 40 mile battery-only range and could achieve 1903 remember.

The 1903 Lohner-Porsche 4x4 series petrol-electric hybrid.

This undermines the anti-car lobby somewhat. On your marks, sandalistas and lentilists! Ready, steady...chew those carpets!

p.s. BMW (UK) have asked the creators at PML to say they have nothing to do with it and to convert your Mini would invalidate the warranty. Well, remind me to tell them to go shove their collective, unimaginative heads up a dead polar bear's bum.


Phil A said...

So how much was it?

Jerry said...

The Prius might be a "feeble car" but it has one attribute this lithiumsupermini doesn't have: it is IN PRODUCTION, and has been for ten years.

I wonder if the fact that Prius' seldom burst into flames might become a second point of superiority too ;-)

Roger Thornhill said...

The Prius can have 1 point. For now. The indirect assertion that the Mini is liable to explode is, especially in light of the complex control mechanisms, FUD.

The Prius has a complex, mechanical transmission - which I consider to be a dead-end - yet fails to deliver economy matching a good diesel. As a PR exercise? 10/10.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Top stuff.

Dr Ray said...

Your comment about regeneration suggests a belief in perpetual motion but leaving that be this is one of many electric cars that show what can be achieved. Invariably the major manufacturers drop them claiming they are not economic and the government is so hooked on duty income from hydrocarbon use they do nothing to encourage developement. Electric cars may come anyway which is why the government is so interested in road pricing. This car is technically a hybrid, even if the petrol engine just runs the generator. It would be possible to have it as a part-time hybrid by hooking up an optional small trailer with a generator when a longer range is needed but the government needs to relax the regulation and taxes on such vehicles if they are to become popular. The best example of a hybrid vehicle is the diesel-electric train which no-one seems to mention.

Roger Thornhill said...

Dr Ray, my comments about regeneration in no way suggest I believe in perpetual motion, but just the conservation of energy (1st law of thermodynamics).

Most vehicles throw away energy via heat in the brakes. This vehicle is capable of absorbing the braking force as electrical energy, except for probably 2-4% inefficiency as expected in electrical systems. It has to, as there are no friction brakes.

Yes the vehicle is a hybrid. 200 miles as a pure plug-in EV (not using the generator), which means only that trip to John O'Groats needs petrol. Considering the generator is a tiny 250cc unit and sits under the boot floor, I see no benefit whatsoever in having a detachable unit. Note that the weight of the generator is likley not a big issue for this vehicle considering it has regeneration - most of the energy used to change momentum is reclaimed.