Sometimes in science, it helps to set the bar high. That seems to be the attitude of the MIT Electric Vehicle Team (EVT). By their reckoning, one of the biggest impediments to the average driver adopting an electric vehicle is recharge times. So, having converted a Porsche 914 to electric, their next project is to produce a prototype family car that will achieve 0-60mph in under nine seconds, have a range of 200 miles, and fully recharge in under 11 minutes.
Dubbed the elEVen, this latest project is an attempt to build an electric car that meets the expectations of mainstream drivers, including a “refill” time comparable to that at a gas pump. Using the mid-size Ford CD3 platform – common to the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, and Lincoln MKZ – EVT plans to strip the vehicle down and rebuild it to their own specifications.
The engine will be replaced with a 250-horsepower, 180kW AC induction motor, donated by SatCon and originally designed for use in a 16.5-ton electric transit bus. Given the sedan will only weigh about 2 tons, it should easily achieve their acceleration goal and, better, manage a top speed of about 100mph.
The battery pack is actually 8,000 individual lithium iron phosphate cells wired together. Chosen because they have an extremely low internal resistance - ideal for rapid recharge – the batteries are also suitably chemically stable for use in a car.
And, finally, the rapid recharger is a custom-made 350-kilowatt unit that draws electricity from MIT’s industrial-grade AC power source. In the long run, though, the theory is you’d also be able to use domestic power for slow, overnight charge.
Does the whole thing sound a little pie-in-the-sky? Sure. The car will effectively cost USD$200,000. It’s taking a huge team over a year to build. And there’s presently no recharging station in the country that could deliver the 350kW needed (enough for about 20 houses) for a ten-minute recharge.
But that’s not the point, MIT EVT would argue. If no one ever tries to satisfy driver expectations, electric vehicle technology will never improve. They believe costs of new battery and electric drives could come down through mass production, but only if the potential is proved. That’s why they’re making all their research publicly available. In the meantime, you can follow their progress on the EVT blog.