Cars ebuggy trailer extends range of EV batteries

Published on September 19th, 2012 | by Tina Casey


“ebuggy” EV Battery Trailer Blazes a Shortcut to Affordable Electric Vehicles

September 19th, 2012 by  

If electric vehicle batteries are the single most expensive obstacle to making EVs more affordable, then one solution is to ditch the battery, right? Well, almost. A German company called ebuggy has come up with an EV battery trailer called ebuggy (what else?).

The trailer arrangement enables car buyers to go for a relatively low-cost EV with a small, lightweight battery for local driving (where range is not an issue). To go on a long trip, all they have to do is stop by the local ebuggy station, hitch up a trailer with a much larger battery, and Bob’s your uncle.

ebuggy trailer extends range of EV batteries

Relay Stations for the ebuggy EV Battery Trailer

Though driving around with a trailer is not everyone’s cup of tea, between private owners, the commercial sector, and government/non-government organizations, there is probably plenty of market to support something like ebuggy.

For that matter, the ebuggy concept is familiar territory to the millions of U.S. drivers who routinely hitch U-hauls, campers, boats, and bike trailers to their cars.

As a one-off range extender, the trailer concept is pretty simple. It only takes a couple of minutes to hook up, which makes it at least as quick and convenient as going over to the local gas station and filling the tank for a long trip.

For even longer trips, ebuggy envisions a network of relay stations where EV drivers can drop off a spent trailer and hitch up a fresh one, also within just a couple of minutes.

That makes things a bit more complicated, but it wouldn’t necessarily put a crimp on the market. In fact, the EV battery relay/exchange concept is already starting to take hold as an alternative to charging stations. The EV battery company Better Place, for example, has been ramping up the introduction of a fully automated drive-through “experience,” where EV owners can switch out their spent batteries in a matter of minutes rather than waiting around for a recharge.


Freedom for New EV Technology

In terms of EV design, the ebuggy concept offers a higher degree of leeway to EV manufacturers, which would be freed up to devote more talent on developing super lightweight, inexpensive EVs for local driving rather than having to accommodate larger, heavier batteries.

The folks at ebuggy also point out that the trailer concept provides a two-for-one deal, by providing EV owners with both a short-range and a long-range option in one car.

Another option would be to buy that tiny new Emo from Tata and rent a larger car for long-distance drives, but that could prove to be a lot more expensive than simply hooking up an EV battery trailer whenever you need it.

They Built This!

That tight focus on affordability and flexibility is no accident, as ebuggy evidently has its eye on the personal mobility revolution under way in enormous new markets like China and India, as well as Western markets where consumers are thirsting for more economical options.

If U.S. car manufacturers want to compete for those customers, they are not going up against a lone company called ebuggy. They will be butting heads with a full-scale public-private collaborative effort by Germany.

That includes a grant from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, along with the participation of companies AERA GmbH Muhlhausen Germany, BVB INNOVATE GMBH Stuttgart, Germany, and HB Technologies AG, Tubingen, Germany, as well as the ISW Institute of the University of Stuttgart.

Unfortunately, back here in the U.S., a certain presidential candidate continues to push the I built this whole thing all by myself fantasy, which certainly does no good for the U.S. business community… except, maybe, in your dreams.

Image: ebuggy EV battery trailer courtesy of ebuggy.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Fred pointyup

    The problem is that most people cant back a trailer. Simple. Attach the trailer at 2 points and make the car steer it. fit a 2 ball hitch 1 metre apart and free swivelling wheels and the trailer will park itself. OR a single centre hitch and a second connector rod to act directly on the trailers steering arm. Most important keep it all standard so you can rent a trailer any where. make different trailers for different people. Don’t make people pay petrol prices for electricity. Wanna get rich?

  • ed

    I would appreciate if you would leave your personal political views out of this

  • Conrad Clement

    Backwards driving being the main motive against the e-buggy, why not apply it to bicycles first… as a trend-setter?

    I had proposed this solution for the 2002 Swiss national exhibition, and it was published in my local newspaper along with a pseudo 3D computer drawing I made to illustrate the concept — which also featured a trailer-cover equipped with PV panels!

    Bicycling being mostly practiced in summer, the typical leisure trip would start from elevated residential areas to reach river or lake shores, where the trailer can be unhooked an parked, with its battery fed by the PV panels whilst biking around on typically level roads with the naked bike (stripped of its heavy battery, and even of its motor, if the motor is also part of the trailer). Back in the evening, the recharged trailer hooked to the bike again will push you up the road to your home.

    • JR

      There are already battery power bike assist trailers on the market. The currently available ones do lack PV panels though.

  • MoreBikesPlease

    I don’t think you’ll be hitching up a trailer to your EV very often, it would be more for a holiday trip etc.
    Instead of batteries, why not make it a cheap, light generator trailer? It’s been done before:

  • Bob_Wallace

    Downside. You have to add a trailer hitch to your EV to use the trailer. (And backing up with a trailer is not something that most enjoy.)

    I think we’re short years from a 200 mile range battery. We’ve already got 95% recharging in <20 minutes. Drive 3-4 hours, take a 20 minute break, drive 3-4 hours. I suspect that will be the answer.

    (The Envia lithium-ion battery has been independently tested at 400 W/kg. Put that in the 100 (65 – 125) mile range Nissan Leaf and you've got a 333 (216 – 416) mile range Nissan Leaf with no weight increase. Cut it down to a 200 mile battery to save cost and weight. Go for 200 miles of highway driving as the goal.)

  • This sounds like a good concept, especially since you can only rent the battery only for a short period.

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