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.