E-car research project sets efficiency standards

June 19, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The prototype of an electric car, developed by the Technical University of Munich along with a consortium of carmakers and technology companies, outlines some general design trends for electrical vehicles.

The design Goal of Visio.M, as the project has been baptised, is two-fold: The research consortium wants to devise an electric vehicle that offers a maximum of energy efficiency and at the same time features a sporty driving behaviour, or, as the researchers put it, an "efficient car with the genes of a sportsman", the latter one obviously an inheritance from BMW as one of the two carmakers who joined the project consortium as research partners. The other one, by the way, is Daimler.

The Visio.M, though still in the prototype phase, is not just a research vehicle. Instead, it also has been designed with industrial production and low total cost of ownership (TCO) in mind. The vehicle will be as affordable as a subcompact car - with a purchase price of somewhat above 15.000 euros but extremely low energy and maintenance costs. These figures anticipates a serial production of at least 50.000 units per year - an ambitious but not unrealistic goal.

With regard to the battery concept, the Munich research team followed the standard set by Tesla Motors: They use a battery block composed of small lithium-ion cells like they are used in laptop computers. According to Markus Lienkamp, professor at the Munich Technical University and head of the research team, this design offers the highest energy density currently available. "Tesla has the best batteries of all electric vehicles", Lienkamp said.

Power it like Tesla: The battery pack of the Visio.M is based on the same principles as Tesla Motors.

Though recently a number of alternative materials and battery concepts such as lithium-air or zinc-air made a splash in the media, these alternatives are years, if not decades away from industrialisation, Lienkamp said. "Over the past years, lithium-ion batteries achieved an improvement of 7 percent per year" Lienkamp said, adding that he believes doubling of capacity within ten years can be expected.

The low total weight (including batteries)