In Focus: Electric Supercars
A supercar by definition is one that is fast, expensive and for the elite. It isincongruous to think of the buyers of these cars as also beinginterested in the environment and zero emissions. However, the supercars do serve another purpose, which is to push the envelope of automobiletechnology. The innovation for speed, pick-up, styling and luxury intoday’s supercars translate into better functions and features on themore every day cars of tomorrow. It is this possibility that isinspiring some designers to work on the electric supercars.
Why the need?
While electric cars have made promising market debuts, major technology questions stillremain to be addressed. The first big question is the driving range.Most electric cars, today, have a range of only 100 to 150 miles on afull battery before they need to recharge. A typical gasoline car on afull tank has a range of 300 miles or more. Putting in a larger batteryto increase range, adds too much weight to the car. The recharge of thebattery takes too long. A gas tank refill takes 5 minutes or less. Abattery recharge could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours and thebattery recharge stations are still very few.
The electric car buyer, who pays a larger upfront cost for the car,also is troubled by the issue of the battery recharge being from utility power that is produced by burning fossil fuel. This negates, at leastin part, the reason for using an electric car. Other questions in hismind are the battery end-of-life disposal, which in a previousgeneration of lead-acid batteries caused ground water leadcontamination.
The hope of the supercar designers is that in building and testinghigh performance cars without the cost and budget restraints of a family sedan, new technologies would get applied that could pave the way tofind solutions to these issues.
The Eliica ( for Electric Lithium Ion Car) has been built first in 2004 by a teamfrom Keio University, Tokyo led by Dr. Hiroshi Shimizu. The car isunusual in that it has 8 wheels each with an 80 hp electric motor. Thisindividual wheel drive is unusual for cars, though it is used in othervehicles like locomotives. A prototype of this vehicle has reached a top speed of 235 mph and the designers hope to beat the 250 mph land speedrecord. Acceleration from 0-60 mph is said to be achieved in animpressive low of 4 seconds. Power is from 4 tracks of 80 batterieswhich makes up a large part of the car’s 2400 kg weight. The car is said to have a range of 200 miles. The wheels are also fitted withregenerative brakes that recover energy when braking to recharge thebatteries. On road price was estimated as $255,000.
What difference will it make
Work on this supercar should help evaluate the practicality of motordriven individual wheels in place of the more conventional single driveadapted into electric cars from gasoline engines. The eight wheelconcept is again a bold departure from the standard 4 wheel design andgives the car all-terrain capability. While it will improve roadhandling, it is not clear how the increased road resistance is offset.Tests of the Lithium Ion batteries on a high performance car should help find new approaches to battery technology.
Shelby Supercars Aero
Shelby SuperCars’ SCC-Aero electric car is said to be able to reach a top speed of 208mph with a 500 hp electric motor. This development could change theperception that only gasoline engines can reach these speeds. Shelby has also made some other claims that could revolutionize the industry. Ithas made the claim that its nanotechnology based lithium battery can berecharged in 10 minutes to deliver a 150 – 200 mile drive range. If this claim is true, it would overcome one of the major issues with electriccars, the long recharge time. The second major advance claimed, is thedevelopment of an All Electric Scalable Power Train (AESP) which couldpower not just cars that typically need 200 hp but also SUVs that need500 hp and light delivery trucks that need 1200 hp. This could makeelectric vehicle technology possible beyond cars. The Supercar is priced $ 650,000.
What difference will it make:
Validation of Shelby’s claims of 10 minute recharge and the scalableelectric power train will overcome two major limitations of present dayElectric Vehicle technology. The 10 minute recharge looks especiallydifficult unless Shelby has a break-through battery technology.
The Inzio by Li-ion Motors of North Carolina claims a top speed of 170 mph and an accelerationfrom 0-60 mph in 3.4 seconds. The car uses a bank of 12 Lithium Ionbatteries of 100 Ah each with proprietary battery chemistry forincreased life. The drive motor is said to be 290 kW AC induction motorwith liquid cooling. The car also includes a Battery Management System(BMS) that monitors individual cell voltages and distributes the powerdrawn evenly between the cells. Another interesting feature is that atthe push of a button, the suspension raises the car by a few inches toclear road humps or other obstructions. The car needs a 6 hour rechargefor its 150 mile range. The charger is built on-board.
What difference will it make
The Inzio’s low slung design coupled with a spacious interiorreflects the design needs for a sporty car and could validate body andinterior design concepts that could be applied to EVs. The BatteryManagement System looks a positive feature as also the device to raisethe car on its suspension.
The Peugeot EX1 which was designed in 2010 as part of Puegeot’s 200th anniversarycelebration has set a new lap record at the Nurburgring track. Averaging 86 mph, the EX1 set the new record at 9:01.38, over 50 seconds lessthan the previous record. The EX1 has previously broken 6 other recordsfor vehicles under 1000 kg weight.
What difference will it make
The expertise that a mainstream automobile company like Peugeot gains from electric racing cars will accelerate the application of newtechnologies to make the EV acceptable to the average car buyer. The EX1 body is made from a carbon honeycomb composite for strength and itdrive is from twin motors that generate 250 kW. The aerodynamic designand low center of gravity make for a stylish “water droplet” shape thatshould find acceptance from future EV buyers.
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