Guide to Lightweight Electric/Hybrid Vehicle Design: Intro (part 0)

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1. Intro

This guide differs from other automotive engineering texts in that it covers a technology that is still very much in the emerging stages, and will be particularly valuable for design courses, and projects, within engineering degree studies. Whereas other works cover established automotive disciplines, his guide focuses on the design stages, still in process for electric vehicles, and thus draws on a somewhat tentative source of references rather than a list of the known major works in the subject.

The choice of design theory is also somewhat selective, coming from the considerable volume of works the disciplines of which are combining to make the production electric vehicle possible.


Electrical propulsion systems date back virtually to the time of Faraday and a substantial body of literature exists in the library of the Institution of Electrical Engineers from which it is safe only to consider a small amount in relation to current road vehicle developments. Similarly a considerable quantity of works are available on aerospace structural design which can be found in the library of he Royal Aeronautical Society, and on automotive systems developments within the library of he Institution of Mechanical Engineers. With the massive recent step-changes in capital investment, first in the build-up to battery-electric vehicle development, then in the switch to hybrid drive engineering, and finally the move to fuel-cell development - it would be dangerous to predict an established EV technology at this stage.

A good deal of further reading has been added to the bibliographies of references at the ends of each section. This is intended to be a source of publications that might help readers look for wider background, while examining the changes of direction that EV designers are making at this formative stage of the industry. The final section also lists publications which seem to be likely sources of design calculations pertinent in designing for minimum weight and has a table of nomenclature or the principal parameters, with corresponding symbol notation used in the design calculations within the text of the sections.


The current period of EV development could be seen as dating from a decade or so before the publication of Scott Cronk's pivotal work published by the Society of Automotive Engineers in 1995, Building the E-motive Industry. As well as pulling together the various strings of earlier EV development, the guide takes a very broad-brush view of the many different factors likely to affect the industry as it emerges. Readers seeking to keep abreast of developing trends in EV technology could do little better than to follow the bound volumes of proceedings on the subject which have appeared annually following the SAE Congresses in February/March, as well as studying the proceedings of the annual worldwide FISITA and EVS conferences. One of these factors, put forward by Cronk, is the need for a combination of electromotive technology with those which went into the USA Supercar program, aimed at unusually low fuel consumption born out of low-drag and lightweight construction. This is the philosophy that the authors of Lightweight Electric/Hybrid Vehicle Design are trying to follow in a work which looks into the technologies in greater depth. The guide is in two parts, dealing with (a) electromotive technology and (b) EV design packages, lightweight design/construction and running-gear performance.

The author draws on long experience in electric traction systems in industrial vehicles and more recently into hybrid-drive cars and control systems for fuel-celled vehicles. Part One contains the first four sections on electric propulsion and storage systems and includes, within the last section, a contributed section by an expert in fuel-cell development, alongside his own account of EV development history which puts into context the review material of the following sections. In Part Two, in his first two sections, uses his recent experience as a technology writer to review past and present EV design package trends, and in his second two sections on body construction and body-structural/running-gear design, uses his earlier industrial experience in body and running-gear design, to try and raise interest in light-weighting and structural/functional performance evaluation.

2. Design theory and practice

For the automotive engineer with background experience of IC-engine prime-moving power sources, the electrical aspects associated with engine ignition, starting and powering auxiliary lighting and occupant comfort/convenience devices have often been the province of resident electrical engineering specialists within the automotive design office. With the electric vehicle (EV), usually associated with an energy source that is portable and electrochemical in nature, and tractive effort only supplied by prime-moving electric motor, the historic distinctions between mechanical and electrical engineering become blurred. One day the division of engineering into professional institutions and academic faculties defined by these distinctions will no doubt also be questioned. Older generation auto-engineers have much to gain from an understanding of electro-technology and a revision of conventional attitudes towards automotive systems such as transmission, braking and steering which are moving towards electromagnetic power and electronic control, like the prime-moving power unit.

In terms of reducing vehicle weight, to gain greatest benefit in terms of range from electromotive power, there also needs to be some rethinking of traditional approaches. The conventional design approach of automotive engineers seems to involve an instinctive prioritizing of minimizing production costs, which will have been instilled into them over generations of Fordist mass production. There is something in this 'value-engineering' approach which might sacrifice light weight in the interests of simplicity of assembly, or the paring down of piece price to the barest minimum. Aerospace designers perhaps have a different instinctive approach and think of lightweight and performance-efficiency first. Both automotive and aerospace design engineers now have the benefit of sophisticated finite-element structural analysis packages to help them trade off performance efficiency with minimum weight. In earlier times the automotive engineer probably relied on substantial 'factors of safety' in structural calculations, if indeed they were performed at all on body structures, which were invariably supported by stout chassis frames.

This is not to mention the long development periods of track and road proving before vehicles reached the customer, which may have led engineers to be less conscious of the weight/performance trade-off in detail design. Individual parts could well be specified on the basis of subjective judgment, without the sobering discipline of the above trade-off analysis.

Not so, of course, for the early aeronautical design engineers whose prototypes either 'flew or fell out of the sky'. Aircraft structural designers effectively pioneered techniques of thin-walled structural analysis to try to predict as far as possible the structural performance of parts 'before they left the drawing board', and in so doing usually economized on any surplus mass. These structural analysis techniques gave early warning of buckling collapse and provided a means of idealization that allowed load paths to be traced. In the dramatic weight reduction programs called for by the 'supercar' design requirements, to be discussed in Sections 4 and 6, these attitudes to design could again have great value.

Design calculations, using techniques for tracing loads and determining deflections and stresses in structures, many of which derive from pioneering aeronautical structural techniques, are also recommended for giving design engineers a 'feel' for the structures at the concept stage. The design engineer can thus make crucial styling and packaging decisions without the risk of weakening the structure or causing undue weight gain. While familiar to civil and aeronautical engineering graduates these 'theory of structures' techniques are usually absent from courses in mechanical and electrical engineering, which may be confined to the 'mechanics of solids' in their structures teaching. For students undertaking design courses, or projects, within their engineering degree studies, these days the norm rather than the exception, the timing of the guide's publication is within the useful period of intense decision making throughout the EV industry. It is thus valuable in focusing on the very broad range of other factors-economic, ergonomic, aesthetic and even political-which have to be examined alongside the engineering science ones, during the conceptual period of engineering design.


Since the electric vehicle has thus far, in marketing terms, been 'driven' by the state rather than the motoring public it behooves the stylist and product planner to shift the emphasis towards the consumer and show the potential owner the appeal of the vehicle. Some vehicle owners are also environmentalists, not because the two go together, but because car ownership is so wide that the non-driving 'idealist' is a rarity. The vast majority of people voting for local and national governments to enact antipollution regulation are vehicle owners and those who suffer urban traffic jams, either as pedestrians or motorists, and are swinging towards increased pollution control.

The only publicized group who are against pollution control seem to be those industrialists who have tried to thwart the enactment of antipollution codes agreed at the international 1992 Earth Summit, fearful of their manufacturing costs rising and loss of international competitiveness.

Several governments at the Summit agreed to hold 1990 levels of CO2 emissions by the year 2000 and so might still have to reduce emission of that gas by 35% to stabilize output if car numbers and traffic density increase as predicted.

Electric vehicles have appeal in urban situations where governments are prepared to help cover the cost premium over conventional vehicles. EVs have an appeal in traffic jams, even, as their motors need not run while the vehicles are stationary, the occupant enjoying less noise pollution, as well as the freedom from choking on exhaust fumes. There is lower noise too during vehicle cruising and acceleration, which is becoming increasingly desired by motorists, as confirmed by the considerable sums of money being invested by makers of conventional vehicles to raise 'refinement' levels. In the 1960s, despite the public appeals made by Ralph Nader and his supporters, car safety would not sell. As traffic densities and potential maximum speed levels have increased over the years, safety protection has come home to people in a way which the appalling accident statistics did not, and safety devices are now a key part of media advertising for cars. Traffic densities are also now high enough to make the problems of pollution strike home.

The price premium necessary for electric-drive vehicles is not an intrinsic one, merely the price one has to pay for goods of relatively low volume manufacture. However, the torque characteristics of electric motors potentially allow for less complex vehicles to be built, probably without change speed gearboxes and possibly even without differential gearing, drive-shafting, clutch and final drive gears, pending the availability of cheaper materials with the appropriate electromagnetic properties. Complex ignition and fuel-injection systems disappear with the conventional IC engine, together with the balancing problems of converting reciprocating motion to rotary motion within the piston engine. The exhaust system, with its complex pollution controllers, also disappears along with the difficult mounting problems of a fire-hazardous gasoline tank.

As well as offering potential low cost, as volumes build up, these absences also offer great aesthetic design freedom to stylists. Obviating the need for firewall bulkheads, and thick acoustic insulation, should also allow greater scope in the occupant space. The stylist thus has greater possibility to make interiors particularly attractive to potential buyers. The public has demonstrated its wish for wider choice of bodywork and the lightweight 'punt' type structure suggested in the final section gives the stylist almost as much freedom as had the traditional body-builders who constructed custom designs on the vehicle manufacturers' running chassis. The ability of the 'punt' structure, to hang its doors from the A- and C-posts without a center pillar, provides considerable freedom of side access, and the ability to use seat rotation and possibly sliding to ease access promises a good sales point for a multi-stop urban vehicle. The resulting platform can also support a variety of body types, including open sports and sports utility, as no roof members need be involved in the overall structural integrity. Most important, though, is the freedom to mount almost any configuration of 'non-structural' plastic bodywork for maximum stylistic effect.

Almost the only constraint on aesthetic design is the need for a floor level flush with the tops of the side sills and removable panels for battery access.


Some industry economists have argued that local body-builders might reappear in the market, even for 'conventional' cars as OEMs increasingly become platform system builders supplied by systems houses making power-unit and running-gear assemblies. Where monocoque structures are involved it has even been suggested that the systems houses could supply direct to the local body-builder who would become the specialist vehicle builder for his local market. The final section suggests the use of an alternative tubular monocoque for the sector of the market increasingly attracted by 'wagon' bodies on MPVs and minibuses. Here the stylist can use color and texture variety to break up the plane surfaces of the tube and emphasize the integral structural glass.

Although the suggested tubular shell would have a regular cross-section along the length of the passenger compartment, the stylist could do much to offer interior layout alternatives, along with a host of options for the passenger occupants, and for the driver too if 'hands-off' vehicle electronic guidance becomes the norm for certain stretches of motorway.

Somehow, too, the stylist and his marketing colleagues have to see that there is a realization among the public that only when a gasoline engine runs at wide open-throttle at about 75% of its maximum rotational speed is it achieving its potential 25% efficiency, and this is of course only for relatively short durations in urban, or high density traffic, areas. It is suggested that a large engine car will average less that 3% efficiency over its life while a small engine car might reach 8%, one of the prices paid for using the IC engine as a variable speed and power source. This offsets the very high calorific value packed by a liter of gasoline. An electric car has potential for very low cost per mile operation based on electrical recharge costs for the energy-storage batteries, and EVs are quite competitive even when the cost of battery replacement is included after the duration of charge/recharge cycles has been reached. It needs to be made apparent to the public that a change in batteries is akin to changing the cartridge in a photocopier-essentially the motive force package is renewed while the remainder of the car platform (machine) has the much longer life associated with electric-driven than does the gasoline-driven vehicle. In this sense batteries are amortizable capital items, to be related with the much longer replacement period for the vehicle platform which could well carry different style bodies during its overall lifetime.

The oversizing of gasoline engines in conventional cars, referred to above, arises from several factors. Typical car masses, relative to the masses of the drivers they carry, mean that less than 2% of fuel energy is used in hauling the driver. Added to the specifying of engines that allow cars to travel at very large margins above the maximum speed limit is of course the conventional construction techniques and materials which make cars comparatively heavy. The weight itself grossly affects accelerative performance and gradient ability. Also some estimates consider six units of fuel are needed to deliver one unit of energy to the wheels: one-third wheel power being lost in acceleration (and heat in consequent braking), one-third in heating disturbed air as the vehicle pushes through the atmosphere and one-third in heating the tire and road at the traction, braking and steering contact patch. This puts priorities on design for electric vehicles to cut tare weight, reduce aerodynamic drag and reduce tire rolling resistance.


The design process in the main-line automotive industry is driven by the edicts of the car-makers' styling departments who ultimately draw their inspiration from the advertising gurus of Madison Avenue, whose influence has, of course, spread worldwide. The global motor industry has been predominately US dominated since Henry Ford's pioneering of systematic volume production and General Motors' remarkable ability to appeal to widely different market sectors with quite modestly varied versions of a standard basic vehicle. Thus far the electric, or hybrid drive, vehicle had to conform to historically developed design norms with the cautious conservatism of marketing management defining the basic scantlings. Conventional automotive design must conform to the requirements of Mr and Mrs Average, analyzed by countless focus groups, while meeting the necessities of mass-production equipment developed during the first century of the motor vehicle.

When bold attempts have been made to achieve substantial reductions in weight below that of the standard industry product, the limitations of these major constraints have usually moderated the design objectives, Fig. 1. The overruling necessity to 'move metal' at the scale of ten million vehicles per year from each of the world's three main areas of motor manufacture makes radical design initiatives a scary business for 'corporate bosses'. Advertising professionals, with their colleagues in public relations, have skillfully built up customer expectations for the conventional automobile, from which it is difficult for the designer to digress in the interests of structural efficiency and light weight. Expectations are all about spacious interiors with deep soft seats and wide easy-access door openings; exterior shape is about pleasing fantasies of aggressiveness, speed and 'luxury' appearance. Performance expectations relate to accelerative ability rather than fuel economy, as Mr Average Company Representative strains to be 'first off the grid'.

Ecologists who seek the palliative effects of electric propulsion will need to face up to educating a market that will appreciate the technology as well as convincing motor industry management of the need for radical designs which will enable the best performance to be obtained from this propulsion technology. The massive sensitivity of the general public to unconventional vehicle configurations was made abundantly clear from the reaction to the otherwise ingenious and low cost Sinclair C5 electric vehicle. While clearly launched as a motorized tricycle, with a price appropriate to that vehicle category, the C5 was nearly always referred to by its media critics as an 'electric car' when operationally it was more appropriate for use on reserved cycleways of which, of course, there are hardly enough in existence to create a market. While the Sunracer Challenge in Australia has shown the remarkable possibilities even for solar-battered electric vehicles, it is doubtful whether the wider public appreciate the radical design of structure and running gear that make transcontinental journeys under solar power a reality, albeit an extremely expensive one for a single seater. Electric cars are perceived as 'coming to their own' in urban environments where high traffic densities reduce average speeds and short-distance average journeys are the norm.

There is also long-term potential for battery-powered vehicles to derive additional 'long-distance' energy from the underground inductive power lines which might be built into the inside lanes of future motorways. It is not hard to envisage that telematics technology for vehicle guidance could be enhanced by such systems and make possible electronically spaced 'trains' of road vehicles operating over stretches of motorway between the major urban and/or rural recreational centers.


At the time of writing some customer-appealing production hybrid and electric drive vehicles have already come onto the market. The Toyota Prius hybrid-drive car, described in Section 6, is already proving to be well received in the Japanese market where imaginative government operational incentives are in place. A variety of conversions have been made to series production compact cars which allow short-range urban operation where adequate battery recharging infrastructure is available. However, GM surprised the world with the technically advanced prototype Impact medium-range electric car, but the market has reportedly not responded well to its production successor and generally speaking there is not yet an unreservedly positive response.

Like the existing market for passenger cars, that for electric-drive cars will also be segmented, in time, with niches for sedan, convertible, dual-purpose, sports, utility, limousine and 'specialist' vehicles. The early decades of development, at least, may also be noted for the participation of both high and low volume builders. The low volume specialist is usually the builder prepared to investigate radical solutions and in the, thus far, 'difficult' market for electric cars it would seem a likely sector for those EVs which are more than drive-system conversions of existing vehicles.

Fig. 1 Alcan's use of 5754 aluminum alloy substituted for steel in the Ford Taurus/Sable saved an impressive 318 kg.

The client's constraint of minimal changes to the passenger compartment and use of existing production equipment must have constrained the possibilities for further weight reduction, however.

Fig. 2 Parry flywheel-electric hybrid rail bus.

With the high volume builders, already under pressure from overcapacity, their main attention is likely to be focused on retaining markets for current design vehicles, without the 'distraction' of radical redesigns. The ambitious, imaginative and high technology specialist has thus much to gain from an informed innovative approach and could benefit from a reported longer-term trend when drive systems will be manufactured by huge global producers and vehicle manufacturing will tend towards a regional basis of skilled body shops catering for local markets.


The 'physical' design package for an electric vehicle will result from a much larger 'design package of affecting factors' which encompasses vehicle operational category, manufacturing systems/ techniques, marketing and distribution. Packages for industrial trucks and specialist delivery vehicles are already established but those for passenger-car variants much less so. It has been suggested that the first substantial sales of electric cars might well be to electricity generating companies in the public utilities sector, who would rent them to railway operators for end-use by rail travelers.

Such people would purchase their hire with return travel tickets to destination stations at which EVs would be parked in forecourts for the use of travelers. Other potential customers might be city-center car hire fleets, taxicab operators in fossil-fuel exhaust-free zones or local authorities setting up city-center car pools.

One of the most imaginative EV applications is the lightweight mini-tram, Fig. 2, as exhibited at the Birmingham ElectriCity event in 1993. This is a vehicle that runs on low cost tracks which can be laid on an ordinary road surface without further foundation. The vehicle can travel up to 50 km/h and is a flywheel-assist hybrid machine having its batteries recharged via low voltage conductor rails positioned at intervals around the track. Each car weighs just over 3 tonnes unladen and can carry 14 seated and 11 standing passengers. A 5 km route, including rails, can be constructed, to include five trams, ten stops and four charge points, at a cost of just $1.6 million. It seems an ideal solution to the problem of congested cities that have roadways that date back to pre-automobile days, with the mini-trams able to transport both passengers and goods in potential 'pedestrian precincts' that would be spoilt by the operation of conventional omnibuses and tramcars. The proposal serves well to illustrate the opportunities for electric vehicles, given some imaginative lateral thinking.

Since launch, larger vehicles have been produced and entered service. The one seen at Bristol Docks (Fig. 2, right) has a steel frame with GRP body panels and weighs 13 tonnes, compared with the smallest railcar which weighs 48 tonnes. There are four production variants on offer, carrying 30, 35 or 50 passengers, and a twin-car variant of the latter. Use of continuously variable transmission now ensures the flywheels run at constant speed; a third rail at stations is used for taking in electricity for 'charging up' the flywheel. A 2-minute recharge would be required for the flywheel to propel the vehicle its maximum distance of two miles; so more frequent stops are recommended to reduce recharge time, 0.5 km being the optimum. A hybrid version with additional LPG power was due for launch in Stourbridge, UK, as a railcar in early 2001.

Some of the above projects are all based on the proposition that the more conservative motor manufacturers may not follow the lead set by Toyota and Honda in offering hybrid-electric drive cars through conventional dealer networks. In the mid 1990s the US 'big-three' auto-makers were crying that there was little sales interest from their traditional customers for electric cars, after the disappointing performance of early low volume contenders from specialist builders. The major motor corporations are considered to operate on slender profit-margins after the dealers have taken their cut, but a change to supermarket selling might weaken the imperative from high volume products which could favor specialist EVs from the OEM's SVO departments. That the corporations have also jibbed violently against California's mandate for a fixed percentage of overall sales being EVs, and wanted to respond to market-led rather than government-led forces, suggests a present resistance to EVs.

A number of industrial players outside the conventional automotive industry are drawing comparisons between the computer industry and the possible future electric vehicle industry, saying that the high-tech nature of the product, and the rapid development of the technologies associated with it, might require the collaboration of companies in a variety of technical disciplines, together with banks and global trading companies, to share the risk of EV development and capitalize on quick-to-market strategies aimed at exploiting the continually improving technology, as has already been the case in personal computers. They even suggest that the conventional auto-industry is not adapting to post-Fordist economic and social conditions and is locking itself into the increasing high investment required of construction based on steel stampings, and ever more expensive emission control systems to make the IC engine meet future targets for noxious emissions. The automotive industry reacts with the view that its huge investment in existing manufacturing techniques gives them an impregnable defense against incomers and that its customers will not want to switch propulsion systems on the cars they purchase in future.

It may be that the US domestic market is more resistant to electric vehicles than the rest of the world because the cultural tradition of wide open spaces inaccessible to public transport, and the early history of local oilfields, must die hard in the North American market where gasoline prices are maintained by government at the world's lowest level, for the world's richest consumers. Freedom of the automobile must not be far behind 'gun law' in the psyche of the American people. In Europe and the Far East where city-states have had a longer history, a mature urban population has existed for many centuries and the aversion to public transport is not so strong. Local authorities have long traditions of social provision and it may well be that the electric vehicle might well find a larger market outside America as an appendage to the various publicly provided rapid transit systems including the metro and pre-metro. And, according to a CARB contributor to Scott Cronk's remarkable study of the potential EV industry, with the control equipment in the most up-to-date power stations 'urban emissions which result from charging an electric vehicle will be 50-100 times less than the tail-pipe emissions from (even) … ULEV' vehicles, a very different story to that put out by IC-engine auto-makers' PR departments.

It is also argued within Cronk's collection of essays that fuel savings from ultra-lightweight vehicles might predate the impact of electric vehicles, on public acceptance, particularly within European and Far-Eastern markets where gasoline prices are at a premium and usually bear heavy social taxes. Fuel savings by such a course could be very substantial and the customer might, as a second stage, be more ready to take the smaller step to a zero-emissions vehicle. This is when he/ she realizes that the cost of overnight battery charge, at off-peak rates from the utilities, could prove an irresistible economic incentive. The vehicles would be produced in a lean-production culture which would also help to pare the substantial overhead costs that are passed onto the customer in traditional auto-manufacture.


The different performance package offered to the public by the EV involves disadvantages, such as comparatively low range and carrying capacity, which need to be offset in the customer's mind by advantages such as low maintenance, noise and vibration, creating the need for a different form of marketing and distribution from that of the conventional private car. The lower volume production rates also involve a quite different set of component and system suppliers, for servicing a specialist manufacture of this nature. The need for a charging infrastructure different from gasoline stations also serves to distinguish EVs as a separate culture. Purchase price will be higher and resale price probably lower due to obsolescence in the face of advancing technology. The notion of periodically billing the customer for an ongoing personal mobility is likely to be preferable to just selling a car.

The customer is thus spared the hassle of bargaining with dealers, obtaining finance, insurance and registration as well as the bother of refueling and making arrangements for periodic servicing.

Periodic servicing is likely to be extended to 50 000 mile intervals for EVs, and systems for refurbishing high mileage vehicles with updated technology systems might well be 'on the cards'.

The interlinking of mobility providers by horizontal networks would obviously benefit the customer as he/she travels from one area to another, possibly using different transport modes. The provider might be a sort of cross between travel agent and customer liaison officer of a motoring organization, but principally the leaser of the EV, Fig. 3.

Fig. 3 Local government is the provider in the French city of La Rochelle where electric cars such as this Peugeot 106 are made available to its citizens.

The need to perceive the EV as a function-specific addition to the family vehicle fleet is also important so that a town car for the school-run, shopping or commuting can complement the conventional car's use for weekend and holiday outings of longer distance. The local mobility provider will need PR skills to be regularly contactable by clients, but will not need the high cost service station premises of the conventional car dealer. In manufacturing the EV a different perception of OEM, from that of the conventional car assembler, is also apparent, because it is likely to be a company much smaller in size than that of its key specialist system suppliers who will probably serve many other industries as well. The OEM would become systems integrator for a 'partnership' chain of long-term suppliers and appoint a project leader to coordinate design, development and production, leading a cross-company team. Such leadership would carry the authority for detailed cost investigations in any of the member firms. EV leasers would need to network with manufacturing project leaders and provide carefully researched hire schedules of potential lessees upon which series production could be planned. This is without need for large parks of finished vehicles which conventional OEMs use as a buffer between supply and demand, as well as their need to maintain excess idle production capacity in slack periods. Organizational innovation thus shares similar importance with technological innovation in EV production.


National government programs, such as the ARPA EV program in the USA, can be used to unite heavy defense spending with value to civilian producers. As combat vehicles have very high auxiliary power demand they become almost hybrid in the sense of their power sources, albeit only one of them being conventionally the prime mover. Coupled with the need to operate tanks in silent mode during critical battle conditions, this makes the study of hybrid drive a reality for military as well as civilian operators. The idea of helping sustain civilian product development must be almost impossible to contemplate by British military hierarchies but if ever a cultural transformation could be brought about, the technological rewards might considerably improve on the efforts made by the military to sell technology to British industry. The USA has the tremendous built-in advantage of their military supremos caring deeply about maintaining the country's industrial base not normally part of the culture of UK military commanders! Regional government initiatives can also be valuable in kick-starting cooperative ventures between companies from different industries. Again the US example, in California, is noteworthy where aerospace supplying companies have been encouraged to support pilot EV programs.

Valuable inputs to EV construction have therefore been made by companies skilled in structural design, computer simulation, lightweight materials, aerodynamics, fiber-optic instrumentation, head-up displays and advanced joining/fabrication. Of course, regional governments inevitably help EVs in the execution of environmental policies and already city authorities in many countries around the world have banned many vehicle categories from their central areas. National governments are also contemplating the huge sums of money spent in defending their oil supplies and probably noting the decreases in oil usage by industries such as building, manufacturing and power generation while transport oil usage continues to rise. The burgeoning use of computer and other electronics systems is also demanding more reliable electricity generation, that can accommodate heavy peak loads. Power generators will be increasingly pleased to step up utilization of the expanded facilities in off-peak periods by overnight charging of EVs. In the longer term, governments might even appreciate the re-skilling of the workforce that could follow the return to specialization in the post-Fordist economic era and see that helping to generate new technological enterprises, as EV development and build could help re-civilize a society condemned for generations to the mindlessness of mass production and the severe and dehumanizing work routines which accompany it.


The American 'supercar' program, discussed in Sections 4 and 7, has been an invaluable indicator as to how lightweight construction can dramatically improve the efficiency of automotive propulsion. As only 4% of a conventional car's engine is needed for city driving conditions, the oversizing of engines in multi-functional cars makes the reduction of exhaust pollution a particularly difficult task on IC-engine vehicles. Expert analysts maintain that half the engine efficiency gains made in the decade 1985-1995 were lost by making engines powerful enough, in the US, to drive at twice the speed limit on the open road. Obviously the situation is worsened if conventional heavyweight steel construction is used and the tare weight of cars rises with the increasing proliferation of on-board gadgetry. While 'supercar' construction has shown how structure weight can be reduced, advanced technology could also be used to reduce the 10% of engine power used in powering 'accessories' such as power steering, heating, lighting and in-car entertainment.

The imperative for power steering is removed by the ultra-light construction of the 'supercar', provided steering and handling dynamics are properly designed. In EV supercars, wheel motors might provide for ABS and ASR without further weight penalty. High intensity headlamp technology can considerable reduce power demand as can the use of fiber-optic systems which provide multiple illumination from a single light source. Light-emitting diode marker lamps can also save energy and experts believe that the energy consumption of air-conditioning systems could be reduced by 90%, if properly designed, and used in cars with sandwich panel roofs, heat reflecting windows and solar-powered ventilation fans. But none of this compares with the savings made by high strength composite construction which has the potential to bring down average car weight from 3000 to 1000 lb. It is reported that many of the 2000 or so lightweight EVs operating in Switzerland already weigh only 575 lb without batteries.

The ability to achieve net shape and finish color from the mold in polymer composite construction is important in offsetting the higher cost of high strength composites over steel. But also the cost of steel is only 15% of the conventional structure cost, the remainder being taken up in forming, fabrication and finishing. Around half the cost is taken up by painting. The cheaper tooling required for polymer composites is also important in making small-scale production a feasible proposition, alongside direct sales from the factory of 'made-to-order' cars. A number of these factors would help to remove the high mark-up to the customer of the factory price which is typical of conventional car sales and distribution.

3. Lean production, enterprise structures and networking

Lean production has grown out of post-Fordist 'flexible specialization' which has led to growing specialization of products, with a new emphasis on style and/or quality. The differentiated products require shorter production runs and more flexible production units, according to Clarke. The flexibility is made possible by new technologies, the emerging economic structure being based on computerization and other microchip hardware. Rapid gains in productivity are made through full automation and computerized stock control within a system that allows more efficient small batch production. Automatic machine tools can be reprogrammed very quickly to produce small quantities of much more specialized products for particular market niches. Economies are set to be no longer dominated by competition between hierarchically organized corporations and open to those dominated by cooperation between networks of small and interrelated companies.

Lean enterprises are seen as groups of individuals, functions, and legally separate but operationally synchronized companies that create, sell, and service a family of products, according to Womack et al.

This is similar to the Japanese 'keiretsu' concept of large, loose groupings of companies with shareholding connections. They cooperate both technically and in sharing market information and the result is an array of business units competing in vertically and horizontally links with other companies within a single project. A trading company with well-developed worldwide networks is usually at the center of the operation and can feed back vital market trends to the production companies.

Of almost equal importance is the involvement of international banking corporations who can provide a source of industrial finance. Changes in legislation are required by European countries to make a similar system of common shareholdings plus private ownership acceptable to company law.

Lean production is the approach pioneered by Toyota in which the elimination of unnecessary steps and aligning all steps in a continuous flow, involves recombining the labor force into cross-functional teams dedicated to a particular activity, such as reducing the weight of an EV platform. The system is also defined by the objective of continually seeking improvement so that companies can develop, produce and distribute products with halved human effort, space, tools, time, and, vital to the customer, at overall halved expense.

Enterprise structures aim to exploit business opportunities in globally emerging products and markets; to unite diverse skills and reapply them in long-term cooperative relationships; to allocate leadership to the member best positioned to serve the activity involved regardless of the size of company to which he/she belongs; and finally to integrate the internal creation of products with the external consequences of the product. In EVs this would involve ensuring an adequate operational infrastructure be provided by an electricity generating company, in combination with local authorities. The products involved are those, such as the electric vehicle, that no one member company on its own could design, manufacture and market. Partners in an EV enterprise might also lead it into additional businesses such as power electronics, lift motors, low cost boat-hull structures and energy storage systems for power station load leveling, for example. Internally the use of combined resources in computer software technology could be used to develop simulation packages that would allow EVs to be virtual tested against worldwide crashworthiness standards.

Managing of product external consequences could be facilitated by forming partnerships with electricity generators, material recyclers and urban planners, finance, repair and auto-rental service suppliers as well as government agencies and consumer groups.


Unlike the Japanese networks of vertically integrated companies, such as the supply chains serving Toyota, an interesting Italian experience is one of horizontal networking between practitioners in specialist industries. Groups of small companies around Florence, in such areas as food processing, furniture making, shoe manufacturing, have been unusually successful and, in the case of tile manufacture, have managed to win an astonishing 50% of the world market.

Export associations have been formed on behalf of these small companies and at Modena even a finance network has been formed between companies in which the participants guarantee one another's bank loans. The normal default rate of 7% for bank loans in this region has become just 0.15% for this industrial network, demonstrating the considerable pride built up by companies in meeting their repayment obligations. Commentators liken the degree of trust between participants as being akin to that between different branches of traditional farming families.

Like the grandfathers of the farming families the 'elders' of the industrial networks offer their services for such tasks as teaching apprentices in local colleges. The secret, some say, is that these areas around Florence escaped the era of Fordism which affected northern Italy and many other industrial centers of Europe.

The approach to setting up such a network is to build on elements of consensus and commonality so as to create mutual facilities of benefit to groups of small companies wishing to compete successfully against the international giants. Generally a network has a coordinating structure of interlinked elements which are individuals, objects or events. The links can be in the form of friendship, dependence, subordination or communication. In a dense network everyone knows everyone else while some networks may, for example, comprise clusters of dense elements with ties between clusters perhaps only involving one individual in each. The specific definition of a network is the set of relations making up an interconnected chain for a given set of elements formed into a coordinating structure.

Analysts usually consider solidarity, altruism, reciprocity and trust when examining networks in general. Solidarity is largely brought about by sharing of common experience; so social class and economic position layers are sometimes seen as having solidarity as do family and ethnic groupings. With altruism, of course, people help each other without thought of gain. Because it is rare in most societies, rewards and penalties for actions tend to exist in its absence. Repeat commitment to a network is expressed as loyalty and individuals often react to disturbance either by 'exit', 'voice' (try and change things for better) or 'loyalty'. The latter may be expressed as 'symbolic relations' in which an individual is prepared to do his duty and meet his obligations.

'Voice' is important in the organization of networks as it involves argument, debate and persuasion, which is often fundamental to the direction taken by small to medium sized groups. Another stabilizing coordination is the reciprocity with which symmetry is maintained between giving and receiving. Of all the attributes, trust plays a central organizing role; essential if not all members behave absolutely honestly. Individuals bet against the opportunistic behavior of others according to their reputations. Networks are often 'flat' organizations in the sense of having equality of membership. There is an underlying tendency for individuals to become involved with cooperative solidarity, if only because of the higher cost of not cooperating. Generally trust is built up over a period of recognizing and evaluating signals from other actors and having opportunities to test interpretations, over a rule-learning period, which leads to eventual solidification of mutual interest.

A study of French subcontracting companies to the engineering sector in the Lyons area, between 1975 and 1985, has shown that network coordination has improved performance relative to larger firms during that period, often becoming dynamic investors in flexible CNC machine tools.

Essentially small firms benefited from large forms farming out some of their activities because they could not run flexible machines long enough to amortize the capital cost. But this was only the trigger and the firms later found the network of cooperation brought them trading advantages way beyond those available in a classic market. Recent economics approaches have dealt with transaction costs as a means of examining social ties between traders and such analysis involves the organizational implications of the transaction cost. Trust can lubricate the friction behind such costs. In the French study the small subcontractors were mainly supplying large engineering companies in the capital goods sector involved in large, complex, customized and expensive products for which client firms were unable to forecast requirements beyond a period of six months.

Employees of the subcontracting firms undergo periods of training in the assembly shops of the client and the client firm becomes an expert in the engineering processes of the subcontractor so that mutual understanding can be built. Each subcontractor takes orders from one client of not more than 10-15% of total sales and the clients put themselves in the position of the subcontractors in determining optimal level of orders. The relatively low percentage figure allows the client a degree of flexibility without undermining the viability of the subcontractor. A 'partnership' exists in that in exchange for improved performance on quality and delivery the client firm guarantees a level of work for the subcontractor. Any defection of a subcontractor is made known to the whole community of suppliers and the full penalty has to be made for non-delivery, so that trustworthiness is not just judged by reputation; the long-term message from the experience was that 'trust is expedient'.

Other examples show that large companies often tend to divest themselves of activities to the extent that they become essentially 'systems integrators' among a specialized consortia of companies in the particular manufacturing environment. Quoted examples are Fiat, BMW and Volkswagen.

This breaking up of vertical integration may involve affiliated organizations or separate suppliers, with many aspects of R&D and design being divested to systems suppliers. Relationships between sub-units are too delicate to be left to market-type arrangements in this 'associationalist' way of working.

4. Electric-drive fundamentals

While battery-electric vehicles were almost as common as IC-engine ones, at the beginnings of the commercialization of the powered road vehicle, it was not until the interwar years that serious studies were taken into operating efficiency of such systems, as a precursor to their introduction in industrial trucks and special purpose vehicles such as milk floats. Figure 0.4 illustrates some of the fundamental EV traction considerations as the technology developed. For the Mercedes Electromobile of the early 1920s, for example, seen at (a), more sophisticated wheel drives were introduced, with motors formed in the wheels to eliminate transmission gear losses. An energy diagram for this drive is seen at (b). The basic definitions and relationships of electromagnetism are helpful in the appreciation of the efficiency factors involved.

Fig. 4 Electric traction fundamentals: (a) Mercedes Electro-mobile motor; (b) motor characteristics; (c) hysteresis loop; (d) motor poles and their magnetic field.--- (b) Electric-drive fundamentals


While the familiar magnetic line-of-force gives the direction of magnetic force at any point, its field strength H is the force in dynes which would act on a unit pole when placed in the field. For magnetic material such as soft iron placed in the field, the strength of field, or magnetic intensity B, inside the iron is greater than H, such that B = µH, where µ is the permeability of the material (which is unity for non-metallics). When the cross-section of the object, at right angles to the magnetic field, is denoted by a, the magnetic flux f is the product Ba in maxwells. Since it is taken that at unity field strength there is one line of force per square centimeter, then magnetic induction is measured in lines per cm^2 and flux is often spoken of as in 'lines'.

Faraday's law defined the induced EMF as rate of change of flux (-df/dt×10^-8 volts) and Lenz's law defined the direction of the induced EMF as such that the current set up by it tends to stop the motion producing it. The field strength of windings having length l, with N turns, carrying current I is H = 4pIN/10l which can be rearranged as f(l/ma) = 4pIN/10 where the flux corresponds to the current in an electrical circuit and the resistance in the magnetic circuit becomes the reluctance, the term on the right of the equation being the magneto-motive force. However, while in an electric circuit energy is expended as long as the current flows, in a magnetic circuit energy is expended only in creating the flux, not maintaining it. And while electrical resistance is independent of current strength, magnetic permeability is not independent of total flux. If H is increased from zero to a high value, and B plotted against H for a magnetic material, the relationship is initially linear but then falls off so there is very little increase in B for a large increase in H. Here the material is said to be saturated. When H is reduced from its high value a new BH curve lies above the original curve and when H is zero again the value of B is termed the retentivity. Likewise when H is increased in the negative direction, its value when B is zero again is the coercive force and as the procedure is repeated, (c), the familiar hysteresis loop is obtained.

In generating current electromagnetically, coils are rotated between the poles of a magnet, (d), and the current depends on both the strength of the magnetic field and the rate at which the coils rotate. Either AC or DC is obtained from the armature rotor on which the coils are mounted, depending on the arrangement of the slip-ring commutator. A greater number of coils, wound around an iron core, reduces DC current fluctuation. The magnetic field is produced by a number of poles projecting inwards from the circular yoke of the electromagnet. Laminated armature cores are used to prevent loss of energy by induced eddy currents. Armature coils may be lap wound, with their ends connected to adjacent commutator segments, or wave-wound (series) when their ends are connected to segments diametrically opposite one another. The total EMF produced is (fnZ × 10^-8 /60)P/K where for lap-winding K=P and for wave-winding K=2. Z is the number of conductors in the armature and n is its rotational speed.

The armature-reaction effect is set up by the current in the armature windings affecting the magnetic field between the poles. In a simple 2 pole machine, armature current would produce transverse lines of force, and the resulting magnetic field would be as shown in the figure. Hence the brushes have to be moved forward so that they are in the neutral magnetic plane, at right angles to the resultant flux. Windings between AB and CD create a field opposed to that set up by the poles and are called demagnetizing turns while those above and below are called cross-magnetizing turns. Armature reaction can be reduced by using slotted pole pieces and by separate compensating field windings on the poles, in series with the armature. Also small subsidiary inter-poles, similarly wound, can be used.

When the machine runs as a motor, rather than generator, the armature rotates in the opposite direction and cuts field lines of force; an induced voltage known as a back-EMF is generated in the opposite direction to that of the supply and of the same value as that produced when the machine is generating. For current I, applied to the motor, and back-EMF Eb , the power developed is Eb I. By substituting the expression for Eb , the torque transmitted in lb ft is (0.117IfZP/K) × 10^8.

The field current can be separately excited (with no dependence on armature current) or can come from series-wound coils, so taking the same current from shunt-wound coils - connected in parallel with the armature and having relatively high resistance, so taking only a fraction of armature current. Compound wound machines involve a combination of series and shunt. In examining the different configurations, a motor would typically be run at a constant input voltage and the speed/ torque curve (mechanical characteristic) examined. Since the torque of a motor is proportional to flux × armature current, and with a series wound machine flux itself varies with armature current, the torque is proportional to the square of current supplied. Starting torque is thus high and the machine attractive for traction purposes. Since the voltage applied to a motor in general remains constant, and back-EMF is proportional to fn which also remains constant, as the load increases, f increases and therefore the speed decreases - an advantage for traction work since it prevents the motor from having to carry excessive loads.

The speed of a motor may be altered by varying either the brush voltage or the field flux. The first is altered by connecting a resistance in series with the armature, but power wastage is involved; the second, field control, is more economical - and, with a series motor, a shunt is placed across the field winding.

Fig. 5 Electric transmission basics: (a) 'clutching' of electric transmission; (b) high EMF at low loads; (c) horned interpoles; (d) brush movement effect; (e) motor characteristics.

Notation H = Field strength B = Magnetic intensity

µ = Permeability f = Magnetic flux N = Number of field turns Z = Number of armature turns I = Current V = Voltage L = Length of windings n = Rotational speed Eb = Back-EMF


Electric transmission, Fig. 5, survived electric power sources in early vehicles and the engineers of the time established the parameters for optimizing the efficiency of the drive. In a 1920s paper by W. Burton4 , the author points out that for a given throttle opening and engine speed, the output in watts is fixed as the familiar product of voltage V and current I in the electrical generator. The ideal power characteristic thus becomes a rectangular hyperbola with equation VI = a constant.

The simplest electrical connection between generator and electric transmission motor is as at (a).

Generator and motor have to fulfill the function of clutch and gearbox, in a conventional transmission, and closure of the switch in the appropriate position provides for either forward or reverse motion 'clutching'. Below a nominal 300 rpm the generator provides insufficient power for vehicle motion and the engine idles in the normal way. The change speed function will depend on generator characteristic and a 'drooping' curve is required with generator voltage falling as load rises, to obtain near constant power - suggesting a shunt-wound machine. By adding a number of series turns the curve can be boosted to a near constant-power characteristic. These series windings also help in rapid build-up of generator EMF. The resulting problem is heat build-up of these series windings under heavy vehicle-operating loads. Efforts to counteract this by reducing the length of the shunt coil creates the further difficulty of slow excitation after vehicle coasting. Since the brushes of the generator or motor short-circuit one or more sections of the armature winding, it is important that these sections are in the neutral zone between field magnets of opposite polarity at the moment they are shorted. To otherwise avoid destructive arcing under heavy load, the machine characteristic may be altered by moving the brushes either with or against the direction of armature rotation. This will provide more or less droop of the characteristic as shown at (b), but on interpole machines there is the added problem of the interpoles being prevented, under brush movement, of fulfilling their role of suppressing arcing.

Horned interpoles, (c), may be used to offset this effect. The shape of the horn is made such that the magnetic flux under the foot of the interpole is not altered but the additional shoe section is magnified sufficiently to act on a few turns of the armature, these turns providing sufficient induced EMF to give the required compounding effect for rapid excitation from standstill and under heavy loads. The view at (d) shows the performance characteristics by a machine of this type. While the curve for the full field (no series resistance) approximates to the constant power characteristic, its EMF rises at light loads. The effect of inserting resistance is also shown. However, for a given motor torque, speed is proportional to EMF applied so that if the engine speed is reduced, motor and thus vehicle speed will fall. To avoid this, the motor field windings have a diverter resistance connected in parallel to them, to weaken the motor field; the counter-EMF is reduced, and more current is taken from the generator, which increases motor speed again. Thus a wide speed ratio is provided. In earlier times resistance was altered by handles on the steering column; with modern electronics, auto-control would, of course, be the norm. Regenerative braking can be obtained by reversing the field coil connections of the motor which becomes a 'gravity-driven' series-wound generator, running on short-circuit through the generator armature. However, the currents involved would be too heavy and an alternative approach is required.

The theme is taken up by H.K. Whitehorne in a slightly later paper , who pays especial tribute to Burton's skewed horn interpole invention. He goes on to consider motor characteristics and favors the series-wound machine because its speed is approximately inversely proportional to the torque delivered, adjusting its current demand to the speed at which it runs and to the work it has to do. Characteristic curves of a motor running on a fixed voltage are shown at (e). Conditions are shown for full field, and for two stages of field diversion. Examination of the 50 kW line makes it apparent that the torque/amp curve is independent of voltage; speed is practically proportional to voltage and generally characteristics vary on the size of the motor, its windings and length of its core. However, on low voltage and heavy current, the efficiency falls rapidly which makes electric transmission a difficult option for steep gradients. There is considerable flexibility, though, as engine and generator running at 1500 rpm deliver 50 kW at 250 V, 200 A, the electric motor for this output being designed to run at 3800 rpm giving torque of 70 lb ft, for overdrive cruising, yet at 800 rpm giving 315 lb ft for gradients.

5. EV classification

EVs in common current use include handling trucks, golf carts, delivery vans/floats and airport people movers/baggage handlers. The more challenging on-road application is the subject of most of what follows in this guide, where the categories include motor scooter, passenger car, passenger service vehicle, taxi and goods vehicle.

The smallest road-going EVs are probably the electric bicycles such as the Sinclair Zike and the Citibike product. Both these companies also produce bolt-on pedal assist systems for conventional bicycles. Electric motorcycles are less common than electric scooters, the BMW C1 being an example. Recent electric cars have divided between conversions of standard production models and a small number of purpose built vehicles. Japan's flourishing micro-car market of smaller and lighter cars is an important target group for electric conversion, for which acceleration and efficient stop-start driving is more important than range. Such city cars are distinct from longer-range inter-urban cars and the latter market currently attracts hybrid drive cars of either gasoline or diesel auxiliary engines, with series or parallel drive configurations.

Fuel-cell cars for the inter-urban market are still mostly in the development stage of value engineering for volume production.

Commercial and passenger service vehicle applications, that section of the market where downtime has to be kept to a minimum, and where low maintenance costs are at a premium, are particularly attractive to EVs. Municipal vehicles operating in environmentally sensitive zones are other prime targets. In passenger service applications battery-electric minibuses are a common application in city centers and IC-electric hybrids are increasingly used for urban and suburban duties. Gas-turbine/electric hybrids have also been used in buses and fuel-cell powered drives.

Guided buses include kerb-guided and bus/tram hybrids, the former having the possibility for dual-mode operation as conventionally steered vehicles. Guided buses have been used in Essen since 1980. Trolleybus and tramway systems are also enjoying a comeback.

At this relatively early stage in development of new generation EVs tabular classification is difficult with probably the only major variant being traction battery technology. A useful comparison was provided in a Financial Times report on 'The future of the electric vehicle' as follows:

----------- Battery -- Advantages -- Disadvantages -- Comments




Low energy and Horizon and other high technology; low cost power density. performance batteries and fairly long life greatly improve the (1000 cycles). suitability for EVs but must be made cheaper.

Nickel? Higher energy density Cadmium very Being used for second cadmium and cycle life than toxic. generation, purpose lead-acid, built EVs.

Lithium High energy and Expensive. Research into scaling power densities. up to EV size will Safety concerns probably provide a overcome, mid-term battery.

Sodium? High efficiency and Thermal enclosure

Several technical issues sulphur energy density, and thermal management to be resolved before is expensive, this could become an Corrosive components. option.

Sodium? High energy and Thermal enclosure Promising mid-term nickel power densities. and thermal option but currently chloride Long life (over 1000 management are over twice the cost of cycles). expensive. the USABC target.

Nickel-metal High power density, Expensive. Promising mid-term hydride Long cycle life (over option but currently 2000 cycles). over twice the cost of Twice the energy the USABC target.

storage of lead-acid.

Zinc-air High energy density. Infrastructural Interesting longer-term Rapid mechanical needs. option for rapid recharging (3 minutes). recharging.

Nickel-iron High energy density. Hydrogen emitted Research to increase Long life (over 1000 ?safety concerns. efficiency and deep charge/discharge Periodic topping overcome disadvantage cycles). up with water could lead to a long needed. term EV battery.

Nickel? High energy density. Fairly expensive Already used in hydrogen Robust and reliable, no (due to hand communications overcharge/over- assembly). satellites. Cost discharge damage. competitive for high Very long life. cycle operations.


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