PARIS –Peugeot Citroen and a consortium of suppliers, financed in part by the French government, unveil a working prototype of an electric city vehicle with a range of 62 miles (100 km) using a lithium-ion battery that turns out 20 kW (27 hp).
The VeLV can carry three people, with the driver in the center and two passengers behind. The four wheels are arranged like a 3-wheeled scooter. Front wheels are wide apart and the two rear wheels are side-by-side in the center of the vehicle, making it compliant with French regulations for 3-wheeled motorcycles.
says the 1,433-lb. (650 kg) VeLV shows it can develop a car less than 9.8 ft. (3 m) long for three passengers and that uses no more per-person energy than a passenger taking a train. The suppliers’ goal is to build electricity-delivery skills.
The VeLV (for Véhicule électrique Léger de Ville, or light electric city vehicle), presented to the public at an event sponsored by France’s environment and energy-management agency, has no brand badging because it is a PSA project, spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mounier says.
PSA provided the vehicle architecture, car-level safety and overall project management. French suppliers formed a consortium several years ago to collaborate on the VeLV and other electrification projects.
led one supplier-financed effort in which a Citroen C3 Picasso was converted into an EV prototype and displayed at the 2010 Paris auto show. Valeo also is conducting a project called Hybrelec, in which an EV with 50 kW (67 hp) is undergoing winter tests. PSA is leading the project, supported by €6.5 million ($8.9 million) in public funding.
The Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture provided the VeLV’s Li-ion battery. It is less than half the size of, and less costly than, the 22-kW (29.5-hp) batterywill use in its Kangoo ZE van.
, GKN and Leroy Somer worked on the electric drivetrain. Leoni developed the signal and power cables, and Michelin provided engineering help for managing the high-speed electric motor, based on its experience with its own in-wheel motor that was evaluated by the VeLV team but didn’t fit in the vehicle. A Li-ion JV between Johnson Controls and Saft delivered the battery-management system for the VeLV project. But those companies are ending their partnership shortly, with taking over the business and each company being allowed to market its battery technology anywhere.
Both GKN and Valeo are making substantial investments in electrification.
GKN Driveline is working on some 40 EV and hybrid projects with OEMs, making the mechanical gears and driveshafts that transfer power from the motor to the wheels. U.K.-based GKN has a strong EV presence in France, supplying components to the electrified rear axle of the Peugeot and Citroen diesel hybrids soon coming to market, and to theTwizy EV.
Valeo developed the power electronics, motor controller and a specific heating system for the VeLV. Chief engineer Martin Haub says the supplier is working on 60 publicly funded projects aimed at reducing carbon-dioxide emissions.
Of the 755 patents Valeo published in France in 2010, 127 were from the electric-motor division and 65 were from the motor-controls group, although Valeo’s motors mainly are for start/stop applications rather than for driving.
The two suppliers became involved with the small EV earlier than with most car projects, as the body and chassis still were being developed.
“The major revolution in this vehicle was packaging,” says Olivier Emily, electric-drive technology manager-GKN Driveline South Europe region.
To keep it small, the permanent magnet motor had to turn at 14,000 rpm. Without a precise interface with the gearbox, which is located just 3.9 ins. (10 cm) from the driver’s feet, the vehicle could have been noisy and uncomfortable.
“We discussed the gearbox interface early with Leroy Somer,” Emily says. “We did a lot on bearing size and alignment. If we do that wrong, the car is a nightmare.”
GKN also developed side shafts to accommodate the front-wheel-drive mechanism’s short distances and large angles.
The VeLv is 8.8 ft. (2.7 cm) long and 5.6 ft. (1.7 cm) wide. The two rear wheels are joined under the body so it qualifies under French regulations as a motorcycle rather than as a heavy micro-car.
A heavy micro-car has a limited top speed and is not allowed on freeways. But treating two wheels close together as one means the VeLV, with a top speed of 68 mph (110 km/h), could drive on any French road, and its 6.6-ft. (2-m) turning radius allows it to make U-turns on most city streets.
While there are no plans to commercialize the VeLV, the project will continue until June 2012, and Mounier says two more demonstration vehicles will be in use in the first half of next year.
The current VeLV’s mechanics are solid, and the safety and comfort meet automotive needs, he says. But the next editions will be more complete, equipped with windshield wipers, for example. The partners also will work on styling.
The VeLV falls into a growing future category in Europe of small electric city cars with scooter genes. Renault will launch the segment in December with its Twizy, a 20-kW (27-hp) fore-and-aft 2-seater.
Past concepts from large and aspiring auto makers have followed the same path. At this year’s Frankfurt auto show, Audi,and Opel displayed city EVs smaller than the 2-seat Smart and presumably more affordable.
While PSA does not believe the segment will be significant in two years, “such a vehicle could be a solution for urban mobility” in a decade or so, Mounier says.