"Unusual-looking" SIM-LEI EV has 300-km range, could be available soon
By Ben Coxworth
January 11, 2012
If you were one of the people who were hoping to turn some heads when you drove your Aptera down the street, well ... you may still get your chance to own a truly eye-catching electric car. SIM-Drive, a collaborative of 34 Japanese tech companies and institutions, presented its SIM-LEI prototype EV at the 2011 Electric Vehicle Industrial Exhibition late last year. While you probably either love or hate its looks, there's one thing about it that everyone should like - it can reportedly go about 305 kilometers (189.5 miles) on one charge of its battery, traveling at a constant speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).
A venture company established by Japan's Keio University in 2009, SIM-Drive's goal isn't to commercially produce cars itself, but instead "to provide the highest level of electric vehicle technology and information, at the lowest cost, to all those involved with electric vehicles."
The four-seat car's energy efficiency comes thanks largely to its striking aerodynamic design, that results in a drag coefficient of just 0.19. Its long, tapered rear overhang is part of that design, as are its tiny side mirrors (they're augmented with built-in side-view cameras) and its externally-located side impact beams - these serve to reduce the width of its frontal projected area by a total of 100 millimeters. A lightweight steel monocoque frame and low rolling-resistance Bridgestone Ecopia tires also contribute to its efficiency.
A 24.9 kWh-capacity lithium-ion battery pack provides power, while four 65 kW direct-drive in-wheel motors also harvest energy when the vehicle is braking. It can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in a peppy 4.8 seconds, and has a top speed of 150 km/h (93 mph). The car weighs in at 1,650 kilograms (3,638 lbs).
There's quite a bit of cargo space inside, thanks to that enormous overhang. Up front, a 19-inch display allows for functions such as navigation, while also displaying the feed from a rearview camera. Two smaller screens are dedicated to the two side-view cameras.
Although SIM-Drive itself isn't in the car-selling business, interested groups belonging to the collaborative will reportedly be able to sell a commercial version of the SIM-LEI. Large-scale production could start as early as next year.