3.9.2012 Top 10 electric concept cars
Most major car manufacturers are now investing significant time and money into research and development of plug-in vehicles, and electrification of power-trains is becoming a key part of efficient motoring.
A segment that will certainly offer several electric options will be small quadricycle urban mobility vehicles (smaller than city cars), due to the increasing pressures on road space and fuel economy.
From mild hybridization, to plug-in hybrids, to pure battery electric cars, many manufacturers have designed concept ideas for single or two-seater urban vehicles – some of which will reach the market and some of which will remain as just ideas.
Renault have been the first manufacturer to make their small wacky looking urban quadricycle commercially available, and over 150 Twizy ZE models have already been sold in the UK alone. Some of the concept ideas from other manufacturers are below:
Nissan Pivo 2 – Nissan developed a bubble-shaped, three-seater all-electric car called the Pivo, which is short for pivot, which was introduced in 2005 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The third version was unveiled in 2011, and uses a lithium-ion battery with a greater range.
The most striking design feature is that the cabin sits on a wheeled platform and can swivel through 360 degrees, making manoeuvring and parking must less of an effort and doing away with the need for a reverse gear.
Audi Urban Spyder Concept – Audi have taken their Urban Spyder concept a step further and plan to begin production in 2013 with the aim to offer the go-kart style electric quadricycle to selected markets for around £8,000.
The 7.1 kWh lithium-ion batteries will power twin electric motors at the rear wheels to return a range of around 30 miles, top speed of 60 mph and acceleration to 40 mph in 6 seconds. To reduce weight, the shell is made from carbon fibre reinforced plastics and aluminium.
Kia POP – The wedge shaped, futuristic looking Kia POP is a three seater electric concept city car that was first presented at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. Its design was inspired by pictures of space shuttles, and its glass roof gives it a futuristic appearance.
Being only 3000mm in length it is intended to be easy to park and drive around town. It uses a 50 kW electric motor with 190 Nm torque, powered by lithium polymer gel batteries – returning a full driving range of around 99 miles. Although Kia expect to take the POP to production, timing is not yet confirmed.
VW Nils – With a similar style to Audi's Spyder concept, the NILS from Volkswagen is a single seater, pure electric concept car. Its aluminium panels mean that it weighs just 460kg, adding to efficiency, and it is over half a meter shorter than VW's Up, at just 3040mm.
5.3 kWh lithium ion batteries power the 25 kW electric motors, that with a two hour full charge, return a driving range of 40 miles. It looks pretty jazzy on its 17 inch alloy wheels, and can reach 62 mph in just 11 seconds with an impressive top speed of 85 mph.
Chevrolet EN-V – After first being revealed in 2010, General Motors showed their updated EN-V 2 concept at Auto China in 2012, wearing a Chevrolet badge. With a very futuristic and wacky design, the EN-V 2 really looks like something from a science fiction film.
The two-seater was designed to address environmental issues and help alleviate traffic congestion in cities, whilst also improving parking and safety concerns. It uses lithium ion batteries but only achieves around 15 miles on a charge, and has a top speed of 25 mph. The EN-V 2 can be driven normally or operated autonomously – the two wheel balancing system was developed by Segway.
Nissan Land Glider – The Nissan Land Glider is a small electric vehicle with the distinctive feature of being able to lean up to 17% as it turns through corners, which adds stability and agility to the super-narrow car whilst turning at speed. The small electric vehicle has a computer controlled steering system that is controlled by the centrally seater driver – one passenger can sit to the rear.
Nissan have released very little information about the Land Glider, but it has been confirmed that there will be a pair of electric motors driving rear wheels and a lithium ion battery under the floor. Nissan have been successful with the electric LEAF drivetrain, and so should be confident with the Land Glider.
Vauxhall RAK E – The RAK E from Vauxhall is a small two seater electric concept weighing just 380 kg. It was designed with the aim of attracting young teenagers as owners, and also inspired by some design aspects of the Ampera plug-in hybrid.
Vauxhall are confident that it will be mass produced and expect it to cost around 85p per 62 mile full battery charge – making it require just 10% of the energy used by a typical small car and translating to a fuel economy equivalent of 490 mpg. It has a top speed of 75 mph and a 0 to 60 mph time of 13 seconds and is likely to be on sale for around £11,000 in 2014.
Volkswagen XL1 – Revealed at the 2011 Quatar Motor Show, the XL1 is a plug-in hybrid that returns an impressive overall equivalent of 131 mpg on the combined cycle, and just 24 gCO2/km. It uses an 800cc TDI 2-cylinder diesel engine developing 48 PS linked to electric motor that produces 27 PS.
It will have an all-electric range of just over 20 miles, a top speed of 99 mph and a 0 to 62 mph time of 11.9 seconds. The XL1 Uses ultra-lightweight carbon fibre reinforced polymers to save weight and add strength, magnesium wheels, ceramic brake discs and aluminium components.
Smart Forvision – The Forvision concept electric car from smart was first unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2011, and is most notable for the fact that it has wheels made from plastic, rather than metal.
Another distinctive feature is the funky looking spotty roof, which is actually organic glass made up of light-transmitting solar panels, which not only provides a light and airy cabin, but also supplies energy to multimedia systems and interior climate control.
Nissan ESFLOW – Nissan have decided to put their experience and knowledge from creating the all-electric LEAF to use by designing the new two seater ESFLOW zero emission concept car – built from the ground up as a pure electric vehicle. Twin electric motors power the rear wheels, producing enough instant torque to accelerate the ESFLOW to 62 mph in less than 5 seconds.
The same lithium ion batteries as the LEAF are used that are cleverly positioned in order to return a driving range of around 150 miles. Inspired by glaciers, the ESFLOW has a unique but modern exterior with a flashy bright interior.
Some of these models will not make it to market at all, especially in their current state of development. However, it is likely that the more advanced examples, such as Volkswagen's XL1 or Audi's electric concept, will be launched into various global markets. The Nissan IV, (pictured at the top of the page), is more of a concept fantasy – that is not going to be in showrooms any time soon! It's building materials include fast growing Ivy and spider silk, whilst clever electromagnets are used for steering and bio batteries store energy.
It appears to be evident that major manufacturers are thinking seriously about new solutions for urban mobility, with a common theme being electrification for improved efficiency and a reduction in energy use. As renewable sources of energy are used more and more for electricity production, the overall lifecycle emissions of each electric vehicle are greatly reduced.
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