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EV Engineering expands horizons

Just the beginning: Converting thirsty Holden Commodores to run on electricity has provided Melbourne company EV Engineering with valuable experience in a growing industry.

Experience from electric Commodore project to give EV Engineering global reach

19 Mar 2013

MELBOURNE based EV Engineering (EVE), which last year converted a fleet of Holden Commodores to battery power, will use expertise gained from the project to offer engineering services to the growing global electrified vehicle industry.

Since sending seven electric Commodores out for field trials in the fleets of its backers last July, EVE has been working on a number of small projects contributing to various areas of electric vehicle technology.

The company is already preparing to use one of its converted Commodores for testing, development and ultimately commercialisation of a ground-breaking new type of electric motor devised by another Melbourne-based start-up, Axiflux (see separate story linked below).

The Axiflux project will take around six months, with the aim of getting a Commodore out onto the road by the end of this year, powered by the smaller, lighter, more efficient motor that is expected to boost the car’s battery range by up to 30 per cent in urban driving.

EV Engineering CEO Ian McCleave told GoAuto that the organisation – formed by a group of local car parts makers and service providers – will cast its net wider following the Axiflux project.

“We are going to start looking for other opportunities to apply the experience from the EV Commodore project to offer engineering services to EV manufacturers and related technologies,” he said.

Mr McCleave declined to reveal whether the future conversion of more vehicles was on the cards but ruled out working with the new VF that will be launched later this year.

80 center imageFrom top: EV Engineering CEO Ian McCleave. EV Commodore E-stop and cluster.

“Because Holden are focussed in other areas now we are not working so closely with Holden at the moment so we will not be moving to VF,” he said.

“We will continue using the two cars we have got here as they are an ideal platform.” Two of EVE’s major backers have recently experienced setbacks, with the Australian arm of battery swap pioneer Better Place having its investment cut and heating, ventilation and cooling specialist Air International losing out to rival Denso to supply Holden for the VF.

However Mr McCleave confirmed that both Better Place and Air International remained part of the venture.

“Better Place is still a member and (CFO) Anthony Cohen is still one of our directors so we are very happy to work with them,” he said.

“Of course they see the opportunity with the Axiflux project to look at this technology for global applications as well.

“Most of what we have been doing with Air International is related to their offshore activities anyway.

“They work with quite a number of EV manufacturers in the US and China so most of the work we have been doing with Air International has been involved with their really big global work.” Most of the electronic components, the on-board control software and battery-swap system used for the EVE Commodores were designed and built in-house, giving the company extensive experience in developing EV technology from the ground up.

EVE also created major structural parts such as the redesigned sub-frames and designed, engineered and built interchangeable battery packs from scratch, patenting new manufacturing methods in the process.

The seven field-trial Commodores were hand-built but from the outset EVE designed the conversion to be suitable for mass production.

Existing mountings on the donor car were used as often as possible, while sub-assemblies to support the battery and electric drivetrain can be separately manufactured and quickly attached on a production line.

One of the design objectives of the new Axiflux motor is that it will be small enough to be located inside a standard Commodore differential, meaning a standard Holden rear subframe could be used to further simplify the conversion process.

Despite its size, the Axiflux motor churns out 150kW and a truck-like 2800Nm of torque, compared with the larger Bosch unit of the original EVE Commodore that requires a separate transmission unit and power inverter electronics, plus a special subframe to accommodate it.

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