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BMW starts new EV project

MUTE on the button: Despite including BMW and Daimler, the new Visio.M consortium will test new technology using the Technical University of Munich’s research vehicle.

German auto industry giants join forces to make electric citycar commercially viable

General News logo7 May 2012

By DAVID HASSALL

A NEW consortium established in Germany and headed by BMW is exploring ways of making small electric cars of the future much more affordable and as safe as conventional petrol-powered city cars.

BMW is taking the lead – resulting in the adoption of the BMW-style name of Visio.M for the project – but is working with the Technical University of Munich (TUM) as a “scientific partner”, along with cross-town rival Daimler and other engineers to advance the cause of electric cars.

The consortium aims to produce a concept city car with 15kW of power and a maximum kerb weight of just 400kg without the battery, while meeting the same safety standards as conventional petrol-powered cars.

It will start working with a prototype EV called MUTE, which was developed by 200 people across 20 departments of the Munich university and was revealed at last year’s Frankfurt motor show.

MUTE weighed 500kg, including the batteries, thanks to a “vehicle frame made of aluminium and a chassis made of a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic”.

It had a 4kWh zinc-air range-extender located at the front of the vehicle, a 10kWh lithium-ion battery pack (with a fiberglass-reinforced housing for crash protection) and a 15kW electric motor, providing a range of at least 100km and a top speed of 120km/h.

The Visio.M consortium plans to use this vehicle to “explore innovations and new technologies for vehicle safety, propulsion, energy storage and operational concepts, for implementation under the framework requirements of large-scale production”.

80 center imageFunding of 10.8 million euros ($A13.8 million) has been secured from the German ministry for education and research.

Other German ‘industrial partners’ in the venture include safety outfit Autoliv, the Federal Highway Research Institute (BAST), Continental tyres, power company E.ON, design company Hyve, transport analysts InnoZ, mapping experts Intermap Technologies, lithium-ion battery specialists LION Smart, drivetrain specialists Neumayer Tekfor, and electronics giants Siemens and Texas Instruments.

BMW said that, while EVs powered by electricity from renewable energy sources are an attractive option for urban areas, previous approaches have led to vehicles that are too heavy and too expensive or do not meet mass-market safety requirements.

“On the way to mass production of electric vehicles, there are still significant technological hurdles to overcome,” said the Munich-based company in a statement this week.

“Previous small electric vehicles offer only a minimum level of vehicle safety and therefore are not mass-marketable (while EVs) that were derived from gasoline-powered models are usually too heavy and require large and expensive batteries.

“Visio.M will explore how the price and safety of small, efficient electric vehicles can be brought to a level enabling them to achieve a significant share of the mass market.”

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