Manufacturers have been toying about the technology and presenting undrivable concept Electronic vehicles (EVs) for years now, and the chickens are starting to come home to roost.
The high-profile Tesla Roadster has got many people on-board with the idea that these electric rides can be something much more than the proverbial golf cart. Companies like BMW, Volvo, Nissan, Mitsubishi, etc are so far down the EV path now, that the series production of these cars is very close. The three out-of-this-world cars that are highlighted in this article, are all impressive for their levels of serious engineering, their abilities to operate in the real world, and for the potential that they hold:
1. BMW Concept ActiveE
As part of something called the Project I, the BMW ActiveE follows the Mini E into the world of creating all-electric versions of the current BMW Group Production models. Essentially, the ActiveE is an electric 1-series coupe. Present in this concept vehicle are the amenities, a BMW customer would want – leather seats, infotainment, and an LCD Display – as well as some new goodies specific to the ActiveE, e.g, Ambient Blue lighting, exterior graphics, enhanced instrument panel, and special light-alloy wheels. Energy is stored in a temperature-regulated lithium-ion battery pack, which takes the place of the fuel tank and the drivetrain on a 1-series. The synchronous electric motor, integrated into the rear axle, provides 170 hp. 184 lb-ft of torque is available right from 0 rev/min. The ActiveE has a range of about 100 miles.
It can be charged from a high-current residential wall box in just 4.5 hours. It could also be charged at a charging station, if one was available.
Although the ActiveE isn’t as quick as its fossil fuel-powered 1-series siblings, it has the drivability of a BMW designed-in. As for the changes that have been made to keep it emissions free, BMW went to great lengths to ensure that there was no compromise on the overall driving experience. The weight is kept at a minimum (3900 pounds), weight is distributed very low in the car (good for driving dynamics).
Can it be bought now? NO. As of right now, the ActiveE’s older Project I sibling, the MiniE, is undergoing field tests by private customers in California, with a fleet of about 600 units. Expect a similar program for the BMW ActiveE sometime in the near future, perhaps on a larger scale.
2. Volvo Electric C30
The Volvo Electric C30 is pretty much the same thing that it sounds like – a C30 with an EV powertrain. Those of you who find the C30’s unique looks attractive, won’t have anything to complain about the EV translation. A set of unique wheels and a large acreage of decals are the only major changes to the exterior. Volvo designers seem to have done their typical class-leading work on the interior, with a blue gear selector, signature materials, and a minimalist feel throughout. The C30 EV uses Li-ion batteries, housed in the propshaft tunnel and in the cavity, normally occupied by the fuel tank, in conjunction with a front-mounted electric motor. Range is stated maximum of 94 miles with full charge, which takes around eight hours to achieve, from a standard electrical outlet.
A specially designed instrument cluster will give the driver speed and energy consumption as standard, with state of charge information, and further technical data, available through various symbols and Menus. The focus is on safety, above everything else. The batteries are packaged well away from the crash deformation zones, and further encased in reinforced structures. Volvo quoted the EV a 0-60 sprint of under 11 secs, upto a max top speed of 81mph. That pace won’t blow my doors off, still, it can be counted as a large step up from the “golf cart” model that seems to have many drivers so wary of EVs. From a handling perspective, borderline soft driving dynamics as the gasoline-powered C30, this has always impressed as being fun to drive, without seeming overly sharp. Less power and more weight won’t help matters here either.
Can it be bought now? NO. But you might be able to drive one for a while. Volvo has plans to build a fleet of more than 50 electric C30s this year.
3. Commuter Cars’ Tango T600
The Tango is a start-up-company-sized take on an all-electric solution for urban warriors. The car’s super-narrow profile can allow for in-traffic maneuvers, otherwise only possible for a motorcycle, with seating for two (front to back), and at least as much cargo space as is required for a briefcase, a six-pack of beer, and probably your longest extension cord. The T600 uses two powerful electric motors to good effect, when it comes to acceleration, powered by the owner’s choice of either Pb-acid or Li-ion battery packs.
Those who opt for the Pb-acid set up will have to make do with a range of only 40 miles, while the Li-ion setup has a maximum range of a much heartier 200 miles. Massive, monstrous torque. Offering nearly 1000 lb-ft instantly, breaking loose the rear rubber would never be a problem. And, YES! This one can be bought as of now. The folks at the Commuter Cars home office in Spokane, Washington will be more than happy to take your order today. Your new Tango T600 will reach 0-60 in a mere 4 seconds. However, it won’t be driven off the lot, so much as shipped off it, as the car is delivered to consumers in the form of a kit. The kit can be assembled in a matter of hours, but u’ll still have to put some work in. There’s also the small matter of the cost, which, to me, is borderline insane at $108k.
The Tango is a fascinating, and compelling sports EV, to be sure, but the marketing folks are going to either have knock one of the zeros off the MSRP, or start dressing this thing up like a Tesla Roadster.