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With recent and ongoing advances in battery technology, the electric car is making a comeback. With 3 times the energy efficiency of the best hybrids (4 times better than fuel-cell vehicles), and the ability to use energy from any source via the existing grid, electric cars probably are the long-term solution.
But oil is still relatively cheap, and batteries are still expensive. When the rising curve of oil price crosses the falling curve of battery price, there will be a mass market for electric vehicles.
In advance of that market, Wrightspeed is developing an advanced electric drivesystem technology, and making use of an interesting property of electric drivesystems: there’s no tradeoff between performance and efficiency.
Internal combustion engine (ICE) cars have an intrinsic conflict: if they are built for performance, they are thirsty; if they are built for efficiency, they are slow.
This is not the case for electric cars. The Wrightspeed X1 prototype is faster than anything available except the Bugatti Veyron, yet it returns 170mpg equivalent in city driving. If we reduced the power to one quarter of the current power, the car would be correspondingly slower – but it would be no more efficient.
This means Wrightspeed can design and build and sell very interesting cars – extremely fast cars – without compromising energy efficiency. The drivesystem technology they develop can be applied to other vehicles in the future, as economics permit.
If reduction in fuel consumption is the goal, it would be better to replace 10mpg cars with 20mpg cars, than to replace 50 mpg cars with 100mpg cars. 5 times better.
Counter-intuitive? Here’s the arithmetic. The 10mpg car uses 10 gallons to go 100 miles. The 20 mpg car uses 5: a saving of 5 gallons. The 50 mpg car uses only 2 gallons for 100 miles, so replacing it with a 100mpg car only saves one gallon.
The fuel consumption problem is not that the current hybrid cars only get 50 mpg. That’s not where the fuel is going. Look around you on the freeway, and count the 10-15mpg cars. That’s where the fuel is going. If we can replace a 10mpg car with an electric car, at roughly 100mpg well-wheels equivalent, we save 9 times as much fuel per mile than if we replace the 50mpg hybrid commuter car.
At Wrightspeed, they will do exactly that, starting with extreme performance supercars.
And the improvements we are making in electric drivesystems raise the performance driving experience to a new level. Faster, more fun, and safer. We expect that some of these enhancements will eventually find their way into all cars.
The X1 prototype is a concept car, and a test platform. It is not a production car, and never will be. It’s a proof-of-concept vehicle that will lead to a production car in the future.
To build it as a prototype, we looked for the best of the best, in today’s technology. We chose the AC Propulsion (www.acpropulsion.com) 3-phase AC induction motor and inverter – the highest power/weight ratio system available; brilliantly engineered, and with about a decade of durability testing to date. For the chassis, we turned to Ariel, in Somerset. (www.arielmotor.co.uk). Simon Saunders, the designer of the Atom and the founder and CEO of Ariel, has created in our view one of the world’s most beautiful cars, as well as the quickest, lightest chassis on the road. To drive it is a revelation. Simon’s background is in automotive design, notably for Aston Martin and Porsche. The Atom chassis was substantially modified for the electric drivetrain, but retains the original styling.
The X1 prototype is just the beginning. It meets its design specs of 0-60 in 3 seconds, 170 mpg equivalent; and at 1536 lbs, is only 36 lbs over the design target of 1500. It really does raise the performance driving experience to a new level, even for racing drivers. No clutch, no shifting, precise and immediate control of torque in drive and braking, perfect traction control…first gear takes you to 112mph…
In recent track testing, on street tires, it achieved the following performance:
0-30 mph: 1.35 sec
0-60 mph: 3.07 sec in 117 ft
0-100 mph: 6.87 sec
0-100-0 mph 11.2 sec
Lateral g: 1.3
Braking g: 1.2
The X1 production car will be better… much better.