By on February 24, 2011

For most Americans, the appeal of electric vehicles is somewhat blunted by the fact that they tend to be small, European-style hatchbacks rather than large, red-blooded “American-style” sedans. But what if large, rear-drive electric sedans were developed, using battery-swap technology that could allow battery-leasing business models and instant range-extension? Might Americans rethink a few of their long-held stereotypes about EVs?

Well, the United States isn’t the only nation facing this dilemma, and unlike the US, Australia is actually doing something about it. Australian automotive suppliers, Air International, Bosch, Continental and Futuris, have teamed up with Project Better Place to develop seven “proof of concept” Holden Commodore-based rear-drive electric sedans that could be the first of their kind [press release here in PDF] in a joint venture called EV Engineering. The project is part of Australia’s effort to revamp its automotive industry by 2020.

Holden is only peripherally involved in the the $26m JV, providing engineering support and use of its proving grounds, according to drive.com.au, but several former Holden executives are heading the project. And the project is almost entirely privately-funded as well, with a mere $3.5m coming from the Australian government’s now-defunct green car innovation fund. The project has no plans to put EV Commodores into production, but each participating supplier will use the vehicles to develop know-how around large, rear-drive electric vehicles, a segment that does not yet exist in the marketplace. The idea is that, down the road, the research will help Australia become the global auto industry’s source of rear-drive EV technology and experience.

The projects goals, beyond building the seven prototypes, are:

1) Deliver zero emissions motoring when powered by renewable electricity and greater than 30% reduction in CO2 emissions when powered on grid average electricity.

(2) Deliver the same high standards of safety and feature available in this class of vehicle while delivering comparable performance.

(3) Be designed for a manufacturing cost equivalent to top selling petrol vehicles in this class, without battery. (Batteries will be included as part of monthly electric vehicle charge network subscriptions, replacing petrol costs.)

(4) Be capable of accessing both EV charge spots and ‘battery switch’ stations for unlimited range extension. Additionally, the project will help to develop electric vehicle engineering skills and components within the Australian supplier industry for potential export to car makers globally, with opportunities including battery pack design and thermal management systems.

This project is highly significant on a number of levels. First, battery-swap-enabled large sedans operating in Australia could show the way forward for the US, by breaking stereotypes about EV size, capability and operating environments. Second, the project marks the first sign of flirtation between General Motors and Project Better Place’s battery-swap-based business. Though Holden is not an official partner, there’s no doubt that GM will be keeping a very close eye on the project, especially given its possible applicability to the United States. Thus far, only Renault has officially signed on as a Better Place vehicle supplier. Finally, by spurring on development of an EV based on Australia’s best-selling car,  Better Place strengthens its position in the Australian market, which could also inspire more interest from American governments and automakers in the batter-swap business.

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6 Comments on “Rear-Drive Holdens Meets Battery-Swap In Australia...”


  • avatar
    beken

    I look at it this way.  It takes me 5 minutes to fill my fuel tank and I have a continuous driving time of about 4 hours.  Depending on speed, traffic, type of car and other things, I get anywhere from 150 miles to over 350 miles on a tank of fuel.   For an 8 hour charge of an electric car, I might get 1 hour of continuous driving.   Let’s say a battery swap takes 5 minutes.  I still get 1 hour of continuous driving.  Let’s say we’ve improved to estimated 100 miles on a full battery.  That’s still less than 2 hours of highway driving.
    I think there is a lot more going on than just technology to replace our current cars with something that consumes less oil.  We need to look at how we view transportation in general. As stated on TTAC already, electric cars by themselves are not the answer.  Battery swap stations might help, getting the batteries charged so you can swap one at a station is not going to come cheap.  The problem with a big midsized electric car is they are going to use a whole lot more battery than a Volt or Leaf just to get around the block.  Battery technology by itself is not ready though I do applaud those entrepreneurs who have tried and those who are still trying.  I suspect all cars will be a hybrid of multiple fuel technologies in order to make transport work.
    I have no idea where I’m going with my argument anymore so I better shut up.
     
     
     
     
     

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      Your point was crystal clear to me: EVs still suck and thusfar nothing comes close to the utility of sweet, sweet gasoline.
       
      And this is why I will vote for Lord Humongous for President in 2012.
      http://www.inch.com/~william/humungus.html
       

  • avatar

    I second Beken’s doubts about large-sized EVs. Sure, you can put a lot of extra battery in them, but at least at current prices, those batteries will push the cost of these big rear drive EVs well into luxury territory. I suspect this sort of thing is less viable in Oz than in the US–Better Place is well suited only to small, densely populated places like Israel, Denmark, Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Singapore. And more power to them.  @font-face { font-family: “Times New Roman”; }@font-face { font-family: “Arial”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Arial; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/does-better-place-have-a-better-plan
    I certainly hope some alternative to the magic fuel emerges soon, and maybe it will be electrons, but I’m not holding my breath.

  • avatar
    HoldenSSVSE

    Pffffffffttttt…Holden is part of GM, this idea is thus stupid.

  • avatar
    slr5000

    It should be of note that Toyota Aus also has a hybrid camry that was released last year. These big cars that have superfluous ev packages are largely due to the green car fund that the government set up, that provides credit and tax breaks to locally developed “green” cars

  • avatar
    cackalacka

    Two words:
     
    Hells yes.


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