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The car industry is going through the biggest change since engines replaced horsepower. And these are the biggest game changers in the business.
The world may have hit pause, but companies that want to change what we drive and the way we drive are still in play. Just as the shift from horse power to internal combustion was an opportunity for innovators, so is the move from internal combustion to electric power.
All over the world ambitious newcomers are developing innovative ways to get from A to B. Some are taking advantage of new tools such as 3D printing. Others look to leave existing ideas like ownership and leasing behind, replacing them with subscription plans or mobility service models. And all of them are striving to deliver practical advantages compared with today’s conventional cars.
These upstart start-ups are working on everything from monster pick-ups to mini city cars. Here are some of today’s unknowns that could become tomorrow’s household names …
Rivian has some big backers including Amazon and Ford.Source:Supplied
This well-funded American start-up is closer than others to starting production. Through 2019 it attracted big investments from Amazon, and then Ford, which plans to use Rivian’s tech as the basis for an EV of its own. Rivian has shown two EVs ready for the assembly line it is installing in a former Mitsubishi factory in Normal, Illinois.
The R1T, a double-cab pick-up, will be followed by the R1S, a seven-seat SUV. Both are whoppers, scaled and shaped to suit American tastes. Huge dimensions — the R1T is around the same size as a Ram 1500 Crew Cab — mean room for a huge underfloor battery packs.
Rivian claims these will be able to drive up to 650km between recharges. The company is also aiming for a $US69,000 starting price for the R1T with the smallest of three different size battery packs.
Bollinger shows that electric cars can still be tough.Source:Supplied
The visuals may be military-macho, but the B1 and B2 are eco-warriors at heart. These all-aluminium, all-wheel-drive EVs are due to go into production in a factory near Detroit, Michigan, late this year.
The $US125,000 Bollingers will come standard with a 120kWh battery pack, good for a driving range of more than 300km. A larger pack will be an option.
As with Rivian, Bollinger takes advantage of the “skateboard” layout typical of EVs. The B1 and B2 have a big front boot that connects to a lengthways cargo tunnel. Though this feature means there are only four seats, the vehicles can swallow a lot of long stuff; 40 lengths of four by two-inch building timber, for example.
Uniti One is ideal for short urban commutes.Source:Supplied
Will Uniti manage to get its urban EV into production later this year? The outfit’s Australian CEO, who doesn’t have a driver’s licence, is frank about the chances. “The probability of failure is very high,” admitted Lewis Horne during a pre-coronavirus crisis interview.
Horne is inspired by the determination of Tesla founder Elon Musk and admires the design philosophy of Apple. The car developed by his company, called Uniti One, has room for three. The steering wheel and driver’s seat are central, and there is a two-seat bench behind.
Designed for sustainable production at multiple sites, the Uniti One has a single electric motor. It drives the rear wheels, and there’s a choice of 12kWh or 24kWh battery packs for driving ranges of 150km and 300km respectively. The price of a standard Uniti One with the small battery is below €18,000, though Horne believes the car will be sold mainly to companies in mobility service and delivery businesses rather than private buyers.
Founded in 2016, Uniti grew out of a project at Lund University in Sweden. Late last year it announced its plans to begin small scale production of the One at factory in the UK, and began taking orders and deposits from Brits and Swedes.
The Lightyear One’s battery is supplemented by roof mounted solar panels.Source:Supplied
The bonnet, roof and hatchback of this aerodynamic EV are covered with solar cells that boost driving range and cut energy costs. It’s the work of a company based in the Netherlands.
Eindhoven University won the Cruiser Class of the 2013 Darwin to Adelaide Solar Challenge race for sun-powered cars with a four-seater. Members of the team now form the core of Lightyear.
What sets the Dutch car apart from other EVs is the emphasis on efficiency. The Lightyear One has a battery pack only two-thirds the size of the similar-size Tesla Model S, but a better driving range. Both the slippery shape, the work of a design studio in Turin, Italy, and the solar cells contribute to a best-case, bright-sunlight range of up to 800km. Even if the sun isn’t shining, it can drive 400km.
The solar cells also mean less recharging. Computer modelling by Lightyear engineers shows that in a sunny country like Australia the cells could collect enough free energy during a year to drive about 20,000km.
Having shown a working prototype in 2019, Lightyear aims to turn out almost 1000 Ones in 2021 and to be producing 100,000 cars a year two years later.
China’s Bordrin has the money behind it to make it a success.Source:Supplied
Some Chinese EV start-ups have floundered, running into money problems after making a big splash with one-off warp-speed plug-in hypercar concepts. Shanghai-based Bordrin is different.
What this well-funded company plans to build are relatively affordable EVs with mass-market appeal. Bordrin’s first model, due for production later in the year, is the iV6. It’s a crossover that looks a little like the Jaguar I-Pace, but has a Tesla-beating driving range of more than 500km.
Founded in 2016 by a former Ford engineer, Bordrin has established a satellite tech centre in the United States to speed development of a multi-model range of EVs. The iV6 will arrive in brand showrooms in China first. Bordrin plans to then move into Europe, the USA and beyond.
Canoo is not car but a “mobility pod”.Source:Supplied
This Los Angeles-based start-up’s game-changer look may like a loaf of bread with wheels, but the company has convinced Hyundai hardheads that its technology has potential. Korea’s biggest car maker recently signed a deal that will allow them to use Canoo’s EV platform as the basis for new models of its own.
Founded in 2017 by former BMW executives, Canoo’s big idea is a roomy seven-seat mobility pod. Instead of selling the vehicle itself, the company plans instead to market 24/7 access via a simple subscription plan.
What interests Hyundai is the versatile “skateboard” — a unit combining frame, battery pack, electric motor, brakes, steering and suspension — developed by Canoo’s engineers. “We will collaborate with Canoo engineers to develop a cost-effective Hyundai platform concept that is autonomous-ready and suitable for mass adoption,” said Hyundai Motor Group R & D head Albert Biermann.
Czingerhas used 3D printing to make its manic hypercar.Source:Supplied
This new name out of Los Angeles planned to unveil its 21C at car shows in Geneva and New York this year, but both events were cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis.
The Czinger, named for founder Kevin Czinger, is a tandem two-seat hyper-hybrid. It has a high-revving V8, designed in-house, driving the rear wheels and electric motors driving each of the front wheels. Max power is more than 900kW. If it can achieve the performance claims made by its makers it’ll make a Ferrari feel slow.
It’s also likely to make any Ferrari seem inexpensive and oh-so-common. The planned production run is only 80 cars. Many parts will be made by 3D printers.