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PHOTO CAPTION: Saab 9-3 might be the platform used to create Turkey's first electric-hybrid car.

A Turkish Electric Hybrid

For a decade, Turkey has experimented with a range of EV technologies. Now Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Isik wants to turn that experience into a world-beating product.

Published: 13-May-2016

Turkey's Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Isik is obviously proud of his country's technological prowess. However, claiming that it can build a "better" electric car than Tesla might be exaggerating just a bit from what we know about the current state of EV technology in the country based on previous press reports EV World's carried over the last several years.

Clearly, EV aspirations there run high and have been for at least a decade, spanning everything from an "affordable" open cabin urban model to an advanced version running on hydrogen

Now the country aims to produce its own competitor to world-famed Tesla Motors by building a "better" and a "safer" car than the California company. Admittedly, that is a very tall order, one that might be considered bordering on braggadocio, especially given the head start enjoyed by Elon Musk and company, whose SpaceX business unit successfully -- and flawlessly -- returned 3,700 lbs of cargo from the International Space Station this week aboard its Dragon spacecraft. This achievement definitely gives it a leg up over Boeing in the competition to provide NASA with its next generation manned spacecraft. That's a lot of technological depth even the likes of GM and Toyota would have a hard time challenging.

Undaunted, according to media reports, Minister Isik, somewhat like General Motors, believes the extended range hybrid is a better way forward technologically. By having the "battery charging station," in the form of a 1-liter, 2-cylinder ICE-age generator, in the car, Turkey doesn't have to build out a network of charging stations, he reasons.

Research and development on the project will be done by the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK). This is the same body that has acquired licensing rights for €40 mil. from New Electric Vehicle of Sweden to produce the Saab 9-3 platform. Presumably, this would be the first model into which the Turkish-developed EREV system would be incorporated. He also sees the drive system being licensed to other manufacturers. We know of a certain US-based 'patent troll' that might have other ideas.

Turkey does have advanced automotive manufacturing capabilities. A Renault assembly plant there turned out the Fluence Z.E., the electric car used by now-bankrupt Better Place. Isik noted that the government already has been approached by "one of the world's largest battery manufacturers" and TÜBITAK has in place a working agreement with Bosch. He added that the project hopes to have the engine-generator ready for production in 2018, but they are still looking for a manufacturing partner.

Certainly given sufficient resources and talent, Turkey could become a credible player, but its also competing against the likes of Google and Apple, not to mention all the established OEMs, as well as deep-pocket startups in China and, of course Tesla itself, who by 2018 hopes be delivering upwards of half a million Model 3s annually.

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