"Unusual-looking" SIM-LEI EV has 300-km range, could be available soon


January 11, 2012

The SIM-LEI's rear overhang is part of its aerodynamic design

The SIM-LEI's rear overhang is part of its aerodynamic design

Image Gallery (17 images)

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.

Source: DigInfo

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Put me down in the \"Hate It\" column.


I literally recoiled when I saw it\'s picture. I thought it was a range extender for a Prius at first. 0-60 in 4.8 seems pretty quick for an electric. It\'s still ugly though. I\'m still waiting for a golfball car. Then and only then will I be impressed with an EV.

Ethan Brush

A car designed strictly by engineers, not auto stylists. Even the 1980s vintage Ford Probe aerodynamic test vehicles (no relation to the later production model of the same name) looked better than this. But SIM-Drive doesn\'t have to care since they\'re not selling it to the public.


I wouldn\'t really care what it looked like if it was cheap to buy, cheap to run and did what I needed in terms of range and carrying capacity. However: - \"Cheap\" to me means $20,000 or less, preferably close to $15k - Actual price would probably be $50k in Australia because we get screwed on prices for cars and technology - Actual range is indeterminate since 300km at a constant 100km/h probably also means with 0 head wind and flat, straight road with no other cars. Reality is probably half that or less once you are stop and starting, overtaking and adjusting for other cars etc... - That big rear overhang will take a lot of getting used to, especially when reversing. - You still have whopping great batteries that die after a few years and cost 80% of the cars price to replace.

How about just buying a cheap second hand diesel?


Count me in - if I can rent the battery.

Paul Hutchinson

Ben - a useful writeup, thanks, but it would be enhanced if the units used were meaninful and consistent.

Reducing the frontal projected area by 100mm is meaningless. mm are not units of area. 100 mm^2 seems far to small so maybe it was a 100 mm vertical slice equivalent (probably) or ?? [I happen to care about measures like that so would like to know th real values - I'm not just being pedantic.)

0-100kin 4.8 seconds is very very very crisp. Not quite super-car but better than most. With a 1.6 tom battery bearer this seems unlikely - not impossible but ... ?

19 inch display? Maybe . A "normal form factor 19" display would be vast and unmanageable as a dashboard display. It may be an 19" wide lower res version or ???


Russell McMahon

This thing could make a great futuristic hirst, but its so ugly I would refuse to drive it alive. Why is it that most battery propelled cars seem to lack a basic solar panel for recharging?

Jamii Hamlin

I can never understand why battery powered cars need to be so ugly!! Why , why, why. I realise that aerodynamics is a part of it , but their really is no excuse. Two aerodynamic masterpieces immediatley spring to mind. The World War Two Spitfire designed in the late 1930\'s and developing into the early 1940\'s and the incredible Concorde, both iconic. So building something aerodynamically efficient and beutiful to the eye can be done so there is no excuse for the ugly Prius and Aptera and other designs. It seems a prerequisite that electric cars have to be ugly. Sorry , wrong. Nobody will convince me it has to be this way. Anyway, up to about 60mph aerodynamics does not make a great deal of difference on a car weighing a staggering 3638 lbs !!!!. I suggest the makers of this vehicle go to Lotus or Caterham and get a lesson on what it means to be efficient. Being light should come top of the list I think these companies may well tell you.


Internet \'know-it-alls\' always wanted cars to be designed by engineers, saying \"oooh that\'s aerodynamically terrible, ooooh artists shouldn\'t have anything to do with designing cars\" etc etc but now when there\'s finally one, these same people said \"ooooh they\'re ugly, ooooohhhh engineers shouldn\'t design cars\"

Anyways, that car looks like someone crossed a Volkswagen Beetle with a stormtrooper helmet


I like the design....

bio-power jeff

In order for the electric automobile to reduce drag coefficient, rolling resistance and reduce overall mass we\'re going to have adopt a new paradigm for design and construction. We are used to rectangular 2+2 layouts which fit into our rectangular parking spots, garages and generally, rectangular lives. The car\'s construction materials and dynamic forces on vehicle should be part of the the energy creation and storage focus.

In the interim, might it be more energy efficient to cover our major urban arteries with transparent materials and provide some form of reduced drag via a directional air current (produced in part by the vehicles themselves and in part by renewable energy sources). We\'ve all seen the overhead fans in tunnels...they exhaust smoke and gasses but could easily be up-sized to augment traffic-created air flow. Tailpipe emissions could then be filtered completely out of the atmosphere before exhausting air from covered thoroughfare. This would be especially significant for trucks which, like it or not, have a very large frontal area.

Might it also be an idea to insist that all vehicles use electric power to go from a standing start to 25MPH (40KMH); the area where most energy is expended to get a 4000lb vehicle, passengers and cargo moving?


Personally I would love to have that car. I see nothing wrong with the looks at all. In fact, the looks draw me in. For one reason or other, many folks think the Prius is hideous but I own both an 04\' and a 2010 Prius and think they look just fine. There is no accounting for taste and that means yours and mine and that is ok by me.


I agree with Gageteer with his statement about the design, . . . \"A car designed strictly by [Japanese] engineers, not auto stylists.\"

\'Form-follows-function,\' is the norm for the engineer designs. Let the Italian designers get a-hold of this and it will exude \'sexy\' !!! (that is IF you can make a engineering study, . . . sexy )

The \'kammback\' design is a aerodynamic German design as seen on the Civic Insight, Toyota Prius, Chevy Corvette, Volvo S60, . . .

BTW - Zero-to-sixty in 4.6 seconds is almost fast enough to beat a 2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0 0-60 mph at 4.5 seconds !!!


I really like the looks of this car! But then, I drive an \'06 Honda Insight (you know, the one that looks like a \"spaceship\" to some people. My car was way ahead of its time-all aluminum body and frame (even the brakes) and the rest is plastic. Weighs only about 1,800 pounds and gets 60+ mpg on regular. I think it\'s a terrific car. Pretty decent rear storage, too. The only \"drawback\" (not to me) is that it\'s a two seater. The only better mileage car I would consider someday would be an EV. I think the Leaf is cool but expensive and it\'s not able to go as far as I\'d like on one charge. We ARE making progress, though. We\'ll get there!


Looks good, doesnt have points so looks to have been designed to comply to meet with various safety and crash zones. Like the incorporation of the direct drive motors so saves weight as removes the need for drive shafts, though I am not clear if gearing on a central motor is actually better. Still surprised by the final weight but then there is no mention of honeycomb metal, plastics or other weight savings. Shame it still has a steering wheel.

Martin Yale

It does look like a Star Wars helmet toward the rear end.


Obviously, the inspiration was a crayfish some Japanese engineers saw on a plate at a corporate dinner. When you said eye-catching, I hope you didn't mean like when a low branch hits your face when walking in the woods?

But seriously, since Honda is discontinuing the Insight, these designers should have just gotten the design rights from Honda to wrap their concept with the Insight shell since for what it represents, it's design is timeless and nowhere as gimmicky as this SIM car. I'm not saying I "love" the Insight form, but at least it looks like it was "designed" by somebody.

And if form follows function as one writer stated, I would like to have explained to me what is the function under all of this awful form. What I see here is design by committee as some 70's American cars exhibited. Mix this side view with that front end and that rear end and get the o.k. from the appropriate heads and blend the awkward corners together. Not a single good angle. Wow!

Engineers should not be running a physical exterior design, pretty much, of anything! Artist/designers should work with the engineering team to meet any physical and dynamic requirements of seating and chassis, as well as other essential components, and then should be allowed to wrap the product in a thoughtful, artistic, and balanced form.

Really, every view of this concept has it's own extreme ugliness!

I conclude by saying this: If you are not sure of what to do next with your product, simply take it to Italy for any final design treatment.


Funny how people do not realize how low the drag coefficient is which is .19, better than most cars people can buy nowadays. That\'s how the look resulted without compromising passenger and baggage space. Their purpose was to get an affordable car for the masses out there which means any weight savings has to be realized with cheap materials as lightweight steel. Not aluminium or other even more crazy lightweight materials.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret

Looks like it was designed by engineers? I am afraid it is much worse than that. It looks like it was designed by the Soviets.

Bruce H. Anderson

The weight (3638 pounds) is too high. They need to get it down to about 2,000 pounds. Also, one should be offered with a small diesel or electric motor instead of batteries. The aerodynamics are very good and I would be interested in purchasing one if it was available at about the $15,000 range. It is a pretty decent looking car. I drive an Echo which I modified aerodynamically (front air splitter etc.) to give 50 mpg, which my daughter says looks as it it was in an accident; this vehicle looks much better.

Adrian Akau


In a properly run car company, stylists and engineers work together. You don\'t let either work exclusively on a vehicle exterior. If you want to see a good example of what could be, you can look back more than a quarter century to the Volkswagen Scooter concept car. Coefficient of drag of only 0.25 and it looked quite good.


The problem is not that it is ugly, The problem is that you have to drag heavy batteries with you where ever you go.


I too like the look of this car. Frankly, it is refreshing, as compared to another tired rehash from the Italians. As for weight, welcome to the world of ranged EV\'s.

Charles Bosse

Can you say \'butt ugly\'? If you were to flash a photo of that car for 0.001 seconds to anyone, and ask what is it everyone would answer \'electric car\'. Strange I don\'t see any Ferraris or Astins with the rear wheel cover. F A I L I can buy a used gas car for $500 and actually go on a trip to another state. Let\'s see; guess we will have to stop in Podunk, Idaho overnight for a recharge...


I am tired of stylists and their pseudo racing machines which apparently are the only thing American (and other) men children will consider. The (developed) world needs to grow up!

the article says: \"to provide the highest level of electric vehicle technology and information, at the lowest cost, to all those involved with electric vehicles.\"

I wonder if they really mean to share jack.

Walt Stawicki

one word: \"Cadillac Aera\" -- ok its 2 words. Anyway, Cadillac Aera concept car would have 1,000 mile range, which is far more than the 300 kilometer range of the SIM-Drive. Do the math. Well, ok dont do the math, but 1,000 miles is about 1,609 kilometers, more than 5 times the range of the SIM-Drive. Also, the Cadillac Aera is a large, roomy luxury car, or would be if manufactured. GM Cadillac has been very quiet about this concept car. But this is no excuse not to discuss it and keep it in the listings of radical new energy saving vehicles. The GM Cadillac Aera can get this amazing 1,000 mile range on a single fill-up of its 10,000 psi carbon fiber air pressure tank. These new high pressure air tanks have been available for about 10 years now. Filling the tank takes energy of course, but once filled, the air tanks do not lose their charge at all, whereas an electric battery system will lose its charge. The air motors used in Cadillac Aera are very quiet in operation. They would be rotary Wankel in-wheel motors, four (one in each wheel hub) and are superefficient. The Cadillac Aera would be built using carbon fiber extensively, and would also have an aerodynamic fuselage. Any new high efficiency vehicles should be using carbon fiber composites extensively, and though this is high cost, it will come down if it is used in mass production to take the place of most steel and iron parts. When showing new long-range, high efficiency vehicles, we should not be overlooking the Cadillac Aera concept car which won the Los Angeles Auto Show concept car division in 2010. The GM Cadillac Aera concepts should be adapted to everyday use vehicles and it should be rushed into mass production for all market sectors, and should even be applied to VTOL air transportation (vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for personal and family transportation). This technology could make roads obsolete.

Jay Dillon

highest level of electric vehicle technology and information, at the lowest cost That\'s an oxymoron.


re; Jay Dillon

Three out of every ten drivers should not even be allowed to drive cars. Aircraft are much more complicated and rain debris down on unsuspecting bystanders when they run into each other.


ugliest 4-wheeled machine EVER. i don\'t care if it emits exhaust fumes that feed the poor and cure cancer, no one must drive this.


Seeing that \"post Tsunami\" Japan has headed toward nationwide rooftop solar PV in a huge way, it would be interesting to see how long a quick swap battery would take to fully charge for this vehicle. If cost was in the $15,000 range, the payback period would be about 6 years for a free car.

gas deduct= $40 week x 52=$2400 x 6.25=$15,000 nawww, still too expensive...


I am impressed: someone designed a vehicle that makes the Pontiac Aztek more attractive. Now if they would just replace that battery pack with a diesel genset, they might have something.

William Lanteigne
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