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AMP President and CEO Mike Detkas at unveiling of Electric Equinox.
AMP President and CEO Steve Burns at unveiling of Electric Equinox.

EV World Meets Amp's Electric Equinox

EV World's technical editor gets a 'back stage' pass to Amp's Grand Opening

By Michael Brace

What happens when you create one of the nicest electric car conversions possible, built around a really attractive OEM-manufactured platform, and then the OEM decides to stop making it?

You find another car and make it even better.

This week, as EV World's tech editor, I took advantage of a "back stage pass" to attend Amp Electric Vehicle’s Grand Opening of their first showroom in Cincinnati, Ohio. From a personal standpoint, I was thrilled to not only rub shoulders with local dignitaries, including Governor Ted Strickland, who drove the first Equinox production vehicle, but just as importantly, I finally got meet the key players of Amp and to see, first hand, their operation and their vehicles. From a professional standpoint, I was treated like royalty, and that’s always way cool too.

It was Mike Dektas who first spotted my EV World.com name tag, rushed up, shook my hand and said “Mike Brace, I am so glad you’re here! We think the ‘world’ of EV World!” Besides covering their Grand Opening, Mike Dektas also wanted to introduce EV World.com to their latest conversion platform…but more on that later.

Right from the time I walked through their front door, I had unfettered access to their new digs, which (by the way) I was already familiar with, because I had taken my old Range Rover there to get worked on years back. And, typical of a Land Rover dealership, they were set up in a ‘first class’ fashion. I won’t go into the hype and hoopla surrounding the event, and the parade of local and state politicians that we all got a glimpse of; most of that was covered by the local media (and they were there in swarms too). But what I can tell you about (from a technical point of view) is where Amp has been and where they are going.

A bit of history first: Amp was started a few years back by a number of dedicated EV engineers with Steve Burns at the helm. Right from the beginning Amp wanted to offer something few other EV manufacturers have offered since the EV1; a pure BEV that was quick and fast, and one could go well over 130 miles on a single charge. Originally they did this by using two types of batteries (and some clever battery management systems): one set of batteries for acceleration and another set for long-distance cruising. Their “mojo” worked, and it worked very well. They chose the Saturn Sky as the chassis of choice, but later adopted the Pontiac Solstice along the way (same platform, different skin). They wanted to offer a true, seamless OEM quality conversion to something worth driving for a lifetime without maintenance or spending any time at the fuel pump.

It was a seamless integration and (at one point) had even had the GM engineers involved to make sure that nothing but the exhaust changed after you turned the key. Things were looking pretty good for a while, right up to the time GM decided to stop building both lines of cars, that when they got the rug snatched out right out from under them. You might think they were tempted to toss in the towel, but they already had some new “mojo” in the works; some “mojo” that really tickled my fancy.

Steve pulled out a clean sheet of paper and they started looking for another worthy chassis. Enter the Chevy Equinox, a full-size crossover with world-class amenities, and winner of the Consumer Digest Best Buy award. Good choice (but I’m still a Ford man…sorry). Enough of the sales hype, back to the technicalities.

By now Amp had gone back to one battery type (Li-fe-po from Valence), and it the offered the best of both worlds at a good cost. This helped to simplify the controller (now a 360V, 300 amp [continuous] Reinhart) but they also had a new ingredient for the mix: Remy International (formally of ‘the’ Remy Delco). Remy has built for them probably one of the best EV motor designs I have ever seen. Technically speaking it’s actually a set of dual, brushless DC, permanent-magnet motors acting as one, encased in a single liquid-cooled aluminum drum that takes the place of the rear coconut (differential). They are back-to-back and use a set of very robust planetary gears to bring the higher motor RPMs down to rear-wheel speeds. This also means a single-speed transmission. [See photo below].

AMP Electric Vehicles dual motor drive system

With over 200 hp between them, these two little 12,000 rpm motors have enough torque and speed to convert electrons into motion and distance in an extremely quick and efficient manner; efficient enough to keep their bragging rights of offering over 130-mile range without any increase in cost. The whole assembly is bolted up tight to the frame and the rear wheels are now on independent suspensions. Slick…full-time, two-wheel drive, single-speed tranny with no limited slip differential and full regen braking. All of the classic advantages if a BEV in one package.

Another clever trick is the on-board charger. Pick a voltage…any voltage. It works on 110 AND 220. You don’t even have to tell it; just plug it in…it knows. No need to buy or lease the garage charger. How cool is that?

In essence, you now have all of the EV1 successes, at almost the same price in today’s dollars; under $50K after tax incentives. Only now (unlike the non-defunct Saturn Sky conversion) you don’t have to buy an Equinox yourself and drive it into them. You can go to straight to Amp and order a new one. They have a nice arrangement with one of the largest Chevrolet dealers in the area (McClusky Chevrolet) so you get a nice price break right off the bat. All you do is place the order and then pick up the key…sweet.

There are easily a dozen or so other specs I could cover, such as the un-altered dash or the fact that you can replace any of the wear-n-tear parts at any Chevy dealer coast-to-coast, but I’ll leave those details to their website.

Finally, we all know that EVs aren’t for every one, but for any young family (or full-time soccer mom) that needs a good family 4-door, one that is every bit as safe as any vehicle being made today, one that can go several days on a single charge, one that you can pass down to your children, one that they won’t be embarrassed to be seen behind the wheel of, and one that will probably be the only thing they can afford to drive 10 year from now, get to know Amp. They are making your car. If you don’t know them you should; this could well be the first real practical BEV that you or I can buy and not have to take out a second mortgage for the down payment (unless you live in California where you all seem to get first stab at everything…). To learn more about Amp Electric Vehicles go to www.ampelectricvehicles.com.

Times Article Viewed: 6447
Published: 26-Feb-2010

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