September 18, 2008

A New Power in Auto Technology

By Arman Ahmad

KUALA LUMPUR: A RM13.50 drive from here to Taiping?

Based on current petrol prices the typical responses today might be "impossible" or "unimaginable". It costs a minimum of RM45 to make the 300km journey.

But what if petrol is taken out of the equation and electricity is used instead?

Proton is expected to place an electric car on the road by the end of next year in an effort to make car-ownership easier on the pocket amid rising fuel costs.

On the cards is the possible use of electric technology on a current model, possibly the Proton Persona, to make a below RM15 trip to Taiping from here a reality.

The car itself may be more affordable than one would think. The upper price limit is expected to be RM80,000 and the lower price could be as little as RM60,000, the same price as the petrol version.

The possible choice of the Proton Persona has gained credence since of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's arrival at the recent 51st Merdeka Day parade in such a model specially prepared by Detroit Electric.

Detroit Electric has a test bed in the form of a Proton Persona fitted with one of its drivelines. The electric car-maker is thinking of licensing Proton and Lotus models, among others, to create pure electric vehicles.

Detroit Electric chief executive officer Albert Lam said it was exciting that the company's new technology might make the electric car an affordable and practical reality.

He said the secret behind the Dutch-developed technology used in Detroit Electric cars lay in the efficient and light lithium-ion battery and electric motor which are 95 per cent efficient at converting electricity into motion.

"Millions have been spent on research and development over the past at our R&D facility in the Netherlands.

"After months of hard work and searching for strategic partners and new shareholders, Detroit Electric has now emerged with a saleable and durable electric drive system solution ready to deliver affordable electric cars."

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi presented Malaysians with a window into the future of alternative fuel when he said that Proton had been tasked by the government to test Detroit Electric's technology and explore the potential to collaborate in creating pure electric cars.

His announcement came in the wake of government efforts to tackle rising fuel prices.

Lam, formerly CEO of Lotus Engineering, said initial testing showed the car's performance was comparable with, if not better than petrol-powered models.

According to Lam, a mid-sized car with a Detroit Electric driveline would have a range of 300km on one charge.

It could reach speeds of up to 190kph, accelerating to 100kph in just 7.5 seconds.

"These are figures that have been tested."

Lam said Detroit Electric could collaborate with Proton by buying chassises to install the electric drivelines.

This would mean that Detroit Electric would brand the car as its own for overseas markets.

The other was for Proton to use the technology under licence from the company.

Lam said policies adopted by the government were conducive to marketing electric cars.

"The government is taking proactive measures to provide efficient and reliable alternative transportation for the people. Detroit Electric is working closely with all parties concerned and we hope to provide a sustainable solution."

Lam said with favourable government policies the price of the car would be affordable.

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