By on August 17, 2011

Rattle off a list of the buzzworthy EV makers that seem likely to achieve the “holy grail of EV development,” a multi-gear electric car, and chances are that firms like Tesla, Fisker, Th!nk or even a major OEM like Nissan will make the cut. You probably wouldn’t consider the ultra-conservative British sportscar maker Morgan to be in the running, as they still build body substructures out of wood… surely the brand that’s most stuck in the early 20th Century seems an unlikely candidate for EV technical leadership. Think again…

GreenCarCongress reports that Morgan is working on something called the +E, an electrified version of its Aero 8 sportscar, with prototype production scheduled for early 2012. And believe it or not, the plan is to send 221+ lb-ft of zero-rpm torque through a “conventional manual transmission.” That’s right all you Silicon Valley hotshots and US DOE grant-receivers: the most advanced EV may just be developed by a firm that was long said to be “stuck in the 1930s.”

Part-funded by a $166k R&D grant from the Niche Vehicle Network CR&D Program, the +E will be made by replacing an Aero 8’s BMW V8 and replacing it with a variation of Zytek’s innovative electric drivetrain. The Zytek drivetrain, which is known for its extremely compact packaging, is also being used for GOrdon Murray’s T.27 electric city car (click here for more on the drivetrain). Featuring lithium-ion batteries, the rear-drive +E will take advantage of Zytek’s extensive research into hybrid and KERs technology (the firm supplied technology for the first Grand Prix-winning KERS system).

But the most important development is the use of a manual transmission in an EV application. From the sound of it, Morgan will use the 6-speed Getrag transmission that’s normally mated to the BMW V8… but because it’s not clear how much power the +E will produce, it’s possible that another solution will be used. But the man-tran will definitely make an appearance, as Zytek’s Neil Cheeseman explains

Keeping the motor in its sweet spot will help it use energy more efficiently, which will increase the vehicle’s range. It also allows us to provide lower gearing for rapid acceleration from pull-away and higher gearing for top speed. It should also make the car more engaging for keen drivers.

EVs will make better progress with hard-core gearheads when shiftable multi-speed transmissions are made part of the package, but as Tesla has proved, engineering a reliable multi-gear EV ain’t easy. If Morgan is the first firm to bring one to market, it could radically alter the retro sportscar maker’s position in the industry.

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19 Comments on “Will Morgan Build The First-Ever Multi-Gear EV?...”

  • avatar

    There are few things in this world that would give me a bigger set of giggles than to watch Morgan succeed where Tesla failed. That would be SO pleasurable.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Gozinya

      Eh, Tesla’s reputation as being state of the art, cutting edge, is mostly undeserved. They stuck an electric motor in a Lotus, rebadged it, and convinced people that it was a remarkable accomplishment. The Model S is at least an original, if somewhat uninteresting design.

      And they have developed their own powertrain, which is what their businessmodel is really all about. Unfortunately for Tesla and its investors, Elon Musk is more interested in self-promotion than investment in R&D.

  • avatar

    An electric Morgan? I fancy the thought of a 65-year-old Englishman sitting at his bench by the window winding copper wire with pliers Morgan bought in 1952 while, next to him, his father brushes green enamel paint onto the motor housing.

  • avatar

    No, because Brammo already did.

    Personally, I think that it would probably be more efficient to do a little more engine development; having enough torque that you don’t need to screw around with multiple gear ratios is one of the big advantages of an electric motor.

    • 0 avatar

      An electrical characteristic with a large chunk of iron with a lot of copper, is that you need to keep boosting voltage and frequency of the inverter output to keep increasing motor RPMs. The requirements of higher voltage becomes exponential at some point of the motor’s response curve, because the iron will just start heating up rather than generating meaningful magnetic fields at increased frequency. Additionally, the inverter must be designed to use higher voltage battery packs (or use a boost converter front end), which will increase cost and complexity dramatically. Continuous improvements in semiconductors can help here (lower turn on resistance, higher voltage rated devices, etc.), but it won’t help the motor problem. Tesla no doubt gets a flat torque curve by limiting the torque (via current limiting) at low RPMs, and then allows the motor enough current to provide the same torque up to its max voltage. Ie., there is no magical solution to this problem, so they cover it up (so probably a tesla, at risk of a motor meltdown, could probably provide a lot more torque from 0 RPM than it is rated at — at the expense of melted or vaporized windings, or toasted inverter if it lasted long enough to accelerate the motor).

      Mechanically, the motors are limited as well. Whether the armature uses permanent magnets (BLDC type motor) or laminated steel with copper wiring (induction motor), there is a upper limit you can run such a motor where it becomes seriously unsafe when it comes apart from centrifugal force. The motor can sling permanent magnets, and the copper bars of a induction motor can stretch from the force. Ie., you seriously have to overbuild the motor.

      It’s probably a lot cheaper to build the transmission, if you want to avoid compromises to overall vehicle performance.

  • avatar

    Think of the valuable patents that can be created at this early stage of EV development.

    A few of those could enable Morgan to keep funding their wooden frame passion for a long time.

  • avatar

    I’m not an engineer, but I don’t see why an elective vehicle would need such a thing. An electric motor doesn’t have the torque curve like that of an internal combustion engine, so what is this supposed to accomplish?

    • 0 avatar

      I believe that electric motors are less efficient at higher speeds than at slower ones. Tesla originally was going to have a 2 speed transmission in the Roadster, but an electric motor puts a unique stress on a transmission. Transmissions don’t like shifting at full power.

  • avatar

    If you’d like to see more pictures of the Aeromax, I saw one at the Concours of America. It was a dealer car. Coincidentally, I saw the same car last night cruising on Woodward. Though the cross-eyed headlamps are a little odd, the rest of the car looks great, particularly the teardrop boattail rear end.

    A project like this is perfect for a company like Morgan. This is not like building 60,000 Chevy Volts.

  • avatar

    A thread about a British EV and no Lucas jokes?

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Morgan, for such a small company, does remarkably well in the inovation department. This would be a grand feat for them, sadly it will make the waiting lists that much longer for the, as my wife calls them, “Morgan Dorks” to get their replacement units.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    Regardless of any technical achievement, the deletion of the third pedal is the main drawback for most of the ‘green’ cars. If saving the planet means driving a bumper car, count me out.

    I really, really hope that this somehow brings new life to sales of the ‘conventional manual transmission’ as people remember that they still exist, and are the best.

    • 0 avatar

      The reason why a conventional manual transmission is a good thing is because when you have an automatic transmission choosing your gear ratios for you, it frequently chooses wrong.

      If you have sufficient torque that you don’t need more than one gear ratio, then why do you want a conventional manual transmission? Just to have something to keep your left foot and right hand occupied?

  • avatar

    Someone explain why a rev matching algorithm with DSG-style manual transmission would not work. That seems to be the logical answer. For upshifts, the motor controller can brake the motor (regen, anyone?) to match revs with the clutch disengaged. For downshifts, juice the motor to spin it up, match revs, and let regen scrub off speed. The motor would be operating more like a servo.

    Seems obvious and it is baffling why no-one is trying it. What am I missing?

  • avatar

    I’m just posting here because my name is Morgan!

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