Along the way on the rebirth of the modern electric vehicle (EV), we’ve witnessed some “far out” and pretty wild projects. We also saw some of the world’s smartest folks pull together top engineers and brilliant ideas. Some of these companies and projects have threatened conventional carmakers inebriated with bottom line profits to the detriment of innovation. Sadly, some of the companies have fallen by the wayside, while other idle, waiting for the right moment to hopefully capitalize on the business sense of their leadership.
There are many faces to the EV revolution, but there are also those working … in secret.
So, this is for all of you who have helped to shape the future of EVs in one way or another.
AFS Trinity, The Most Advanced Full Plug-In Hybrid Of Its Time
When I first stepped into AFS Trinity’s XH150S in 2009, it was easy to see why mainstream carmakers were wildly scared of that company and its highly disruptive prototype. In fact, they were so threatened that the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show banned them from exposing the XH150S.
The AFS Trinity XH150S was an off-the-shelf hybrid Saturn Vue. But what the company did to that car back in 2008 was impressive and not yet offered. The company added an extra lithium-ion battery pack in the back and ultracapacitors to load-balance the drivetrain. By combining lithium-ion batteries and ultracapacitors, which are smaller in size and offer high power density, the XH150S achieved 150 MPG, had a 40-mile electric mode range, and used gasoline for longer hauls. Using ultracapacitors meant a reduced cost and greater battery longevity. The XH150S increased durability, reliability, and, in some percentage of cases, affordability.
The result was the best plug-in hybrid SUV I have driven to date, save for the rare-as-a-blue-moon second-generation Toyota RAV4 EV (which is really a Tesla SUV). The XH150S did something I believe still, today, no one allows its drivers to do — chose from full electricity, hybrid mode, or gasoline only.
AFS Trinity was finally awarded a historic United States Patent on June 22, 2010, for its Extreme Hybrid drivetrain actively combining the use of ultracapacitors and the company’s proprietary power electronics using off-the-shelf components.
Performance-wise, it was great at the time and still holds its own today. The 0 to 60 with the gasoline engine was a 12.5 second sprint, but in electric mode it dropped to 11.6 seconds. In full hybrid mode, it was chopped down even further to 6.9 seconds, which the company claimed was about the same as a Porsche Cayenne at the time.
Trexa Revisits Double Y Chassis for EVs
Trexa brought an enticing prototype to the Santa Monica, California, AltCar Expo in 2011. It was sound and smart. A tubular cylindrical chassis housed the batteries and controllers, leaving its 4 corners to handle wheels, traction, and direction.
The Trexia’s 9-inch diameter tube Enertube™ tubular energ” chassis could accommodate 2WD or 4WD. It could include anything from a 7 kWh battery pack to a 90 kWh one. All of this fit in its 180-inch wheelbase. And the best part of it was that you could fit whatever body you wanted on it. The only caveat was that you either had to build it and fit it yourself or depend on the company to offer a few choices.
I’m not sure what Trexa is doing today. A ping from whoever is still in charge of this project would be great.
Saba Motors And The X-Prize
When I met Simon, founder of SABA Motors, I immediately liked the fellow. SABA Motors made the final X-Prize and made brought its carbon-zero roadster to SEMA in 2009.
The electric roadster achieved a healthy 0–60 in 5 seconds, and was very efficient with 180 Wh/mile on highways and 156 Wh/mile in city driving. Strangely enough, SABA Motors said the EV yielded 140 miles of range on highways and 120 in city.
AC Propulsion Restarted The Modern EV
Last, but certainly not least, it would be hard to explain how big a role AC Propulsion has had on modern EVs. In a nutshell, it rekindled the modern rebirth of the EV. Perhaps our upcoming story on the Californian company says it all. Suffice it to say, ex-car racer Tom Gage, AC Propulsion President, and out-of-the-ordinary engineer Alan Cocconi, pioneered the modern electric roadster with the tzero, which gave inspiration and in some part birth to the Tesla Roadster.
AC Propulsion is still around and still provides top-notch components to OEMS, such as electric drive systems, battery management, vehicle management, and vehicle to grid (V2G) tech through its tzero Technology.
And if you’ve ever wondered who would win between a tzero and a 700 HP Dodge Viper, let’s just say the venom didn’t spray that far.
Where Are They Now?
To this question, we can safely answer that these cars are in the DNA of most EVs on the streets today, and in the fervent minds of EV engineers and designers everywhere. All of these EVs and PHEVs really go to show: the more things change, the less they do.
And now we’ll leave you back to the incessant PR and marketing pitches about what companies plan on doing, will do, want to do, are looking into, and whatever else they see happening in 2020 or some further off time.
My, how I long for yesterday’s future now!