ATT RD Tackles the Challenge of An Affordable Battery EV
By Bill Moore
Omaha, NE – 09 December 2000 -- As this is being written, AP and Reuters report that the staff for the California Air Resource Board has recommended a drastic reduction in the number of battery electric vehicles required to be sold in the state starting in 2003.
According to early reports and email, the number has been cut from an early estimate of 22,500 to just over 4,500. Purportedly, the Automobile Manufacturer’s Association has convinced the staff that California's controversial mandate that 10% of all vehicles sold in the state be zero emission can be met with other advanced vehicle technology than purely battery electric vehicles. While CARB has insisted all along that battery EVs are the "gold standard" in environmental vehicles, it has apparently been convinced to adapt a less than 24 caret standard.
The Problem of Affordability
All along, carmakers have argued that battery electric cars can’t be affordably built. They point to high battery and component costs. They are firmly convinced that American car buyers won’t buy a vehicle that costs 3 times as much as a conventional gasoline car and has a range of only 80-100 miles.
Now along comes serious young entrepreneur from Korea who says he can build a four passenger, highway-capable, battery (lead/acid) electric car for $20,000 US. His name is Mahnshik Kim and his company is Advanced Transportation Technologies R&D (ATT R&D) of Seoul, Korea.
Kim’s company has developed three battery EV prototypes, the Parade, Invita, and Always. The Invita and Always are designed to meet both US and Canadian Low-speed electric vehicle standards, as well as operate at higher speeds outside of the North American marketplace with an upgrade in drive train and brakes. But it is the Parade that caught our attention at EVS 17 in Montreal last October.
The 3.5 meter-long Parade is a four passenger, aluminum space frame vehicle that also makes extensive use of "Super Plastic body panels shaped using a vacuum heat process developed for the aerospace industry. Using sealed lead acid batteries mounted under the vehicle floor pan, the 1,120 kg curb weight car has a range of 60 miles with a top speed of 110 km/hr. It can accelerate from 0 to 60 km/hr in 8 seconds and can climb an 18% grade at 32km/hr.
The Parade is driven by a liquid-cooled, AC induction motor, also mounted low in the rear of the car, which ATT says equalizes weight distribution and improves handling. The motor uses two-stage reduction gears and includes a parking pawl for the emergency/parking brake system. Charging is accomplished using an onboard conductive charger that is quick-charge compatible. You simply plug it into any 110 or 220 volt outlet.
ATT designed the Parade to use Mcpherson A-arm suspension in the front and quadra link suspension in the rear. The car makes use of electric power-assisted steering, a tilting steering column.
As with any small car, safety is a concern. The Parade will meet FMVSS208 and US NCAP safety standards in a full-frontal impact. Offset impacts it will meet Euro NCAP and IIHS. Rear impacts meet FMVSS301 and ECE32/34. According to ATT, "Parade was designed to be one of the safest compact passenger cars in the world. While a ground-up vehicle platform was created for Parade, safety was given the highest priority."
The vehicle is 1,620mm high (63.8 inches) providing the driver with good, all-around visibility. The car will come standard with four channel, ABS braking and four wheel disk brakes which also provide four-wheel regenerative braking. In addition, there are no solid masses like engine or transmission in the front of the vehicle, allowing for a complete crumple zone during a collision. Front seat passengers are further protected by dual airbags.
Yes, But Is It Doable?
The Parade, as it is currently designed, compares quite favorably with equivalent compact passenger cars from both safety and creature comfort perspectives. It has storage space both in front of the vehicle and behind the rear seat. The passenger seats can be adjusted into several different configurations and even completely removed enabling the vehicle to also serve as a small cargo carrier. It also boasts a full climate control system, power windows, six-speaker audio system, foldable side mirrors, and heated rear window glass with timer.
The big question is, can the vehicle be built and sold for a profit at a $20,000 price tag? Mahnshik Kim believes it can. His company says they have looked for every way to make the car affordable for both the manufacturer and the buying public, including throwing away outdated automotive manufacturing paradigms. In their literature they claim it will be possible to build 20,000 vehicles a year in a plant that measures only 200 meters by 300 meters and requires an investment of only $42 million US. The company contends that only $2 million will be needed for tooling of chassis components instead of the usual $50 to $100 million typically associated with the production of a new vehicle. Another $10 million will buy the 10 ‘super plastic’ forming presses needed for the body panels of 20,000 vehicles annually.
ATT R&D’s business development strategy is to handle the development of the vehicle and manage the sub-contracting aspects of manufacturing. It is looking for partners to actually build the vehicle and sell it through established distribution channels. As with any independent vehicle development project, ATT has its work cut out for it. All too often – though not always as the Th!nk program demonstrates – the major manufacturers have a "not-invented-here" mentality that causes them to shun participation in programs like the Parade, Invita and Always. And given today’s news out of California, the market may just have dried-up for battery electric cars in that state, though four Northeastern states are still planning to adapt the 10% mandate.
What may in fact hamper the battery EV market in California more than CARB’s down shifting on battery EV numbers is the state’s current energy crisis where residents are being asked to not even turn on their Christmas tree lights this year. Many Californians are no doubt asking themselves right now how can the state endorse electric-powered cars when it can’t even keep the state’s official Christmas tree lite on the capitol grounds in Sacramento?
Probably a good question.
California’s problems aside, what ATT has done is demonstrate that it may indeed be quite possible to build an affordable battery-electric, 4-passenger vehicle, one that can run on the electricity generated by wind, sun, and water, fuels that will never be exhausted and never generate pollution. The only question is, whether or not a market exists for this type of car?
EV World thinks the answer is yes. Maybe not right now in energy-strapped California but in all those places that have been begging for EVs: Georgia, Texas (here the speed limit in Houston is about to be cut to 55 mph to try and reduce smog), Florida and elsewhere. Feedback we are getting clearly indicates that people are growing increasingly intrigued by the notion of electric-drive vehicles and most admit that even 60 miles range is sufficient for their average daily transportation needs.
Given the fact that you can operate an EV for about one-quarter the cost of a gasoline car on a per mile basis -- not to mention never having to change oil, antifreeze, etc. - - a vehicle like the Parade can make a great deal of good financial, as well as environmental sense.
For more information on the Parade, Invita, and Always, contact: Inn-Woog Yeo, Overseas Sales Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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