By on June 15, 2018

Image: Bosch

Yesterday’s post about Nissan’s struggle to adapt its novel e-Power system to larger, American-friendly vehicles reminded this writer of a product Bosch unveiled last year. Called the eAxle, the compact, lightweight unit is comprised of an electric motor, associated electronics, and transmission.

Basically, it would allow an automaker to easily and cheaply convert a vehicle to electric drive, or include it as part of a gas/electric hybrid offering. Outfitted with an eAxle in the rear, a car could actually become two wholly distinct vehicles — a conventional front-drive, gas-powered vehicle as well as a rear-drive battery electric vehicle. A 201 horsepower eAxle apparently weighs less than 200 pounds installed, and Bosch claims it can downsize and upsize the unit to deliver between 60 and 400 horses.

Intriguing. After reading about it last year, I entertained fantasies of switching off my car’s ICE while stuck in traffic and going gas-free rear-drive, then switching back while on the highway. Or maybe I could turn my lowly economy car into a gas/electric all-wheel-drive monster.

How would you put the eAxle to work?

With its so-called “start-up powertrain,” Bosch claims the all-in-one design kept wiring and cooling hardware to a minimum, thus further reducing size and cost. The supplier hopes automakers take note when the eAxle enters mass production next year. It could be just the thing for a car company looking for a quick and easy way to add electric propulsion to their stable.

Bosch’s technology soon drew interest from startup long-haul truck maker Nikola Motor Company, which hopes to put a fleet of hydrogen/electric semis on the road by 2021. The two companies entered into a partnership last fall to use eAxle technology as the basis of the vehicle’s powertrain. (Luckily, the unit is scalable to up to 4,425 lb-ft of torque.)

It remains to be seen whether Bosch’s creation generates much interest from conventional automakers. However, as this a hypothetical exercise, we’d like to know how you’d use it. What vehicle out there today (or maybe tomorrow) could use a high-torque electric motor powering its front or rear wheels? And which model(s) stand to benefit most from a dual-propulsion system, providing drivers with two distinct driving experiences while eliminating range anxiety?

It’s up to you. Sound off in the comments.

[Images: Bosch]

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29 Comments on “QOTD: Which Model Could Use a Dose of Electricity?...”


  • avatar
    kosmo

    On the front axle of my 2007 Sprinter, please, as a relatively simple AWD system for occasional snow driving.

  • avatar
    chainyanker

    I’d be able to drive my steam car while the boiler was still heating up.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Getting started in the snow is a good one- it doesn’t take much torque to break traction in slippery conditions and when you’re stuck (or almost stuck), a little bit of extra oomph makes a big difference in getting going (oomph from “get out and push” or oomph from “I’m glad I put those snow tires on, this is a lot better than last week”). So the motor doesn’t have to be very big either. Put one on the rear axle of a family hauler and keep the engine, transaxle, and entire drivetrain forward of the firewall and passenger compartment.

    Boat ramps too- put one of these on the front axle of a lot of pickup trucks and keep the regular drivetrain RWD only.

    Here’s the real trick: Convince your customers that it is reliable and costs less to own (expect no major repairs before 200,000 miles) and you might sell a lot of these things. Capitalism!

    As for the thing being useful in stop and go traffic or improving the vehicle’s gas mileage, that almost entirely depends on putting a big enough battery in the car. A big battery costs $$ and that is up to the customer and the invisible hand of the marketplace.

    • 0 avatar
      notapreppie

      As a benchmark, a Prius has roughly 1.3 kWh of battery energy. To match that with commodity 3.2V 60Ah prismatic LiFePO4 cells, you’d need about 34 of them. End-consumer pricing on cells like those is $100/each on the high end and they would weigh in around 200 lbs (the cells would be a bit less but including interconnect cabling and such…). So, $3400 in batteries if you DIY.

      Looking at Aliexpress for the lower limit on pricing (not unreasonable given contractual B2B discounts and such) and the price drops to as low as $600 for the same capacity (though admittedly with a difference cell configuration).

      So, adding some extra wiggle room for incidental costs, anywhere between $1000 and $4000 for the batteries, unknown amount for the powerplant and engineering, and 500-ish pounds of extra weight.

      Honestly, I think this relegates it to “people mover” duty unless the car was built from the ground up with these electric powerplants in mind.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    It’s high time the big 2 1/2 put real hybrid powertrains in the full size trucks and suv’s. No mile hybrids, thanks GM. A crew cab half ton truck with city M.P.G. around 30 would sell like hotcakes if properly engineered and priced. I’m sure they all are working on it. I just wonder why it’s taking so long.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Ford has announced a Hybrid F-150, but full sized trucks not named Tundra or Titan are already selling like hotcakes.

      • 0 avatar

        According to consumer reports and JD powers the Tundra and Titan have superior quality when compared to the F-150. Since Ford has decided to cancel most of their car production, Toyota and Nissan probably don’t even consider Ford as a competitor anymore.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Radio Flyer Big Red Classic ATW

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Loaded trucks going up steep grades. Maybe make it integral to the trailer.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Ford Transit Connect Diesel.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    Toyota Tundra, marry that awesome but thirsty V8 with synergy drive! Ditto the 4 runner and Sequoia.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    This might be a great out-of-the-box option for electric conversions for restorations. Take an old Porsche 356, rip out the worn-out lawnmower engine, put in this 200hp motor. Instant fun.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Excellent idea.

      I always thought Tesla was missing out on a chunk of the market by not offering a BEV conversion kit, marketed as the Tesla System. Imagine an old MG or similar with 200 hp and, gasp, reliability.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    One reason I kept my 1986 MR2 going for so long was hoping that something like this would show up and be a practical engine swap. Several years too late! I’d guess the weight is about the same, especially once you throw in batteries, and 201 hp compared to 116 would sue be an interesting change.

    But too late, it’s gone to someone who wanted to either fix it or use its parts.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Pretty much any RWD or AWD luxury sedan. Put it on the front to maximize regenerative braking and keep the batteries out back. A Q50S hybrid or that new 330e plug in are on the top of my next car shopping lists. 14 second quarter miles with 30MPG combined was unfathomable just 10 years ago.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatic

      This.

      I always thought FCA was missing the boat not installing an electric motor for the front axle of the Charger/Challenger. With the V6 putting 300 HP to the rear wheels and the electric supplying 200 to the front they’d have a green hemi beater. Do it to the ScatPack cars and while you only have 685 hp (compared to the 707 hp HellCats) you have a vehicle they can sell in the snowbelt and possibly get ok fuel economy.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    An electric motor without a source of electricity is pretty useless. Braking regeneration requires more control systems and a battery. Electric-only operation requires a battery. Straight gas to electric operation is inefficient. So this unit may be useful as part of a hybrid but is useless by itself except as an occasional 2wd to 4wd helper motor.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Honda Accord Hybrid would like to disagree with your notion that straight gas to electric operation is inefficient as would Nissan and their e-Power set up. Yes the Accord can and does link the engine directly to the wheels in certain conditions but by Honda’s own admission when it was released that only made for a small increase in hwy MPG. Until the 2018 Camry was released the Accord Hybrid had the best city MPG where it operates engine>MG>MG>wheels exclusively and also the best hwy MPG where it occasionally operates engine>wheels.

  • avatar
    suspekt

    Honda/Acura nailed it with the 3 motor hybrid system…. the TMU (Twin Motor Unit) coupled with the e-DCT….. just look at the difference in incremental price, incremental performance, and incremental efficiency between the MDX and MDX Sport Hybrid….

    I think the next wave of high performance Acura products that I have been waiting so long for might finally come to light and get me to buy new for the first time in my life:

    – Twin or Single Turbo V6 +
    – E-DCT +
    – AWD with no mechanical driveshaft…. TMU to provide rear torque vectoring
    – Sedan or SUV

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’m truly surprised Subaru hasn’t been all in on this, especially in light of their relationship with Toyota…

  • avatar
    gtem

    Rear axle of a minivan. Give Sienna some AWD competition, and massively improve city mpg since it seems that’s where current vans struggle on fuel economy: getting that weight initially up to speed.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    With 1,000 n-m (over 700 ft-lbs) of torque, I could see these as the prime mover in Bobcats, trenchers, and other “fun size” pieces of construction equipment.

  • avatar
    AtoB

    “QOTD: Which Model Could Use a Dose of Electricity?”

    Better question: Which Model Couldn’t Use a Dose of Electricity?

    Rear axle of a first gen Honda Insight? Check!

    One or both axles of a 1988 Pontiac Fiero? Please do!

    Rear axle of a Chevy Volt or Prius? Fun!

  • avatar
    arach

    One of the things that drives me nuts about 4×4 vehicles, is I always buy them to use for approximately 10 miles of the vehicle’s life. Therefore the fuel economy reduction, and higher purchase price really stink.

    I only need 4×4: 1. When I get stuck in the snow (1-2x per year?)
    every time I take my boat up the boat ramp (15-20x per year but for less than 10 feet)

    So the idea of even having a low power emergency-only 4×4 system on the front axle of my truck or SUV sounds amazing.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Fiat/Bertone X1/9.

  • avatar
    jmiller417

    Anything with a manual transmission. Use the electric drive for around-the-town drudgery.

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