Electric Vehicles – can they be Made in NI?

From this LinkedIn conversation I’ve never held with the notion that ideas should be secret. They have to be out there to grow. And they’re worthless anyway without great people to lead them. So my idea is: Electric vehicles are currently limited by two things. Cost – they cost 1.5-2x the price of conventional cars. … Continue reading “Electric Vehicles – can they be Made in NI?”

From this LinkedIn conversation

I’ve never held with the notion that ideas should be secret. They have to be out there to grow. And they’re worthless anyway without great people to lead them.

So my idea is:

Electric vehicles are currently limited by two things.

  • Cost – they cost 1.5-2x the price of conventional cars. This is simply going to hamper the adoption of electric vehicles and even the government grant badly scratches the side.
  • Range-fear – people are afraid they won’t make it home. They worry about taking a long trip and being stranded somewhere where the accents are different.

The problem to be solved is that the battery is probably the most expensive component. Some models mitigate this by being very expensive and some mitigate it by selling the car and leasing the batteries.

I would aim to produce a car where the base price per seat is £2500. That means it’s £2500 for a single person vehicle (a PEV), £5000 for a two seat vehicle, £7500 for a three seater and £10000 for a four seater.

The intended range would be 100 miles. That’s long enough for someone to get to anywhere in the province. Charging time should be 2-4 hours.

Charging mechanism is probably going to stick to cables. This is entirely because there’s already an infrastructure out there – both in the UK and Ireland and beyond. How this works with the Tesla network or other networks on the continent is something that would need to be researched. That’s the only reason I’m not running with the idea of induction plates – there’s no infrastructure.

Detachable batteries are desirable but add bulk and there’s the whole worry of standardisation of connectors. It would be useful to see what Tesla have released as part of their open source mission. I would hazard a visit to Tesla would be very interesting.

Internal infrastructure is minimalist. No need for radio or CD players. Just a digital dashboard pulling data and reporting speed, estimated range and whatnot.

No need for boot space. There’s always room for luggage in a second seat, in a roof box or attached to a trailer (and yes, even the single person vehicle should have a tow-bar). An accessory can be a manufacturer supplied trailer.

Tesla vehicles have a motor on every wheel, but we probably don’t need that for a low cost vehicle. We probably only need 1-2 depending on the size of the vehicle.

I’ve never built a car but humans have been building them for over a hundred years so how hard could it be.

Things to investigate:

  • Chassis – I’m told the chassis and road-worthiness is a complex procedure. I would hope that between InvestNI, the Universities and the TSB we would be able to find a path through.
  • Renewables – how fast can a solar or wind power charger replenish a battery?
  • Pedals – are these practical as a stopgap for charging these vehicles and would they help distribution in developing countries?

And some useful links

  1. Delorean
  2. Clan Cars
  3. Crossle Cars
  4. Wrightbus
  5. Northern Ireland Advanced Composites Engineering (NIACE)
  6. Mondiale Car Company Ltd

9 thoughts on “Electric Vehicles – can they be Made in NI?”

  1. Matt, Couple of things to think about …

    Whats the total car buying market in NI? 400,000? 500,000?

    If the cost to scale down (I can’t get ANYWHERE in 100 miles) is proportional, and hence doesn’t need any new innovation, you have a deal. Just like (almost) Tata built the Nano for the India market.

    1. Oh I’m not remotely concerned about selling any of them in Northern Ireland. It doesn’t even enter my head as a market. Each model of current brands must sell in the hundreds.

      100 miles us the current top end if most cars. Tesla are an exception in this regard because they’re competing with petrol cars in a very petrol intensive market.

      I’m more interested in the personal end and sure, it might scale up as well as down. The point is: can it work.

  2. I was reading about these German built electric mopeds just yesterday – https://unumotors.com

    Nothing particularly new in electric mopeds and there seem to be a lot of manufacturers of them around Europe, but it was their business model and the consideration for the user I thought was most interesting… and easily appropriated.

    Also the bikes are pretty cool!

  3. At that price and and charge time I’d buy one. Kinda hinders those with public parking only available but as no other electric/hybrid offer has interested me I’d make it work.

  4. Interestingly, you find that the people affected by both cost and range-fear are something of a subset of those who will just never trust anything other than an established automotive brand. After two years of trying, this ultimately felt like the biggest challenge.

    Cars are a funny business. You’ve got three parts that have to work together. The limitations you mention are actually on the Product Developmen or engineering side, which are separate from the kind of challenges I ended up running against. These are not solved by the PD people – its Marketing & Sales who ultimately do that work. All of this sits on top of a manufacturing operation and, again, these people are a completely different breed.

    I guess its only a possibility if other people are going to buy in en masse. Then maybe we’ll replace our fossil powered herding behaviour with something a bit more electrifying 😉

    1. I think there’s a huge amount of luck in that respect.

      Most of the budget EVs seem to be built with the Nissan Micra in mind. Why don’t they choose something a bit more similar to the Lotus 7? I’m not a petrol head at all so I’m learning too but I think this is an interesting time.

  5. Battery powered but with a generator for when you need to go further. Few gallons of petrol to get you home in an emergency or let you get to 100 miles away and back in a round trip. Generator charges battery rather than powering the drivetrain

    Have solar panel roofs/surfaces been investigated ? Seems obvious..

    Is a smaller motor per wheel better than a larger motor driving a drive shaft?

    Also stop making electric vehicles look like bloody space ships or boxes, if it looks like a car it’s more likely to be bought.


    1. To be honest I’d be keen on seeing how far you can get without resorting to fossil fuels considering in NI you’re never more than 20 miles away from a charger and there’s always friendly houses.

      Solar surfaces is one option but why not pedal power as well?

      Tesla use a motor per wheel so I assume there’s some efficiency thing there that would need some research.

      I don’t have much in the way of preconceptions of what they should look like but there’s no reason they should look like cars which were designed to hold internal combustion engines at one end and luggage at the other end. Think different.

  6. Is the tesla motor per wheel not for performance ? I mean maximum torque for max acceleration (guessing here)

    Pedal power to charge the battery would be totally doable as would the solar panels, It would be down to cost against efficiency, weight, reliability etc.

    No fossil fuel would be the ultimate goal but I would see it as a safety net in the interim. People are wary of EVs ‘What happens if im going somewhere there are no chargers ?’ ‘I dont want to have to go out of my way and then have to sit at a charging station for 4 hours just to get there/home’

    The ‘looking like a car’ bit is to stop alienating people. People that are into cars want something that looks like a car not obviously an electric project (granted some do) Being as much like a car as possible should cut down on the work needed to make it road legal also…

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