Article Source: IMechE
Aston Martin recently unveiled its first electric car: the Rapide E. Roger Blakey, the project’s chief engineer, says building an electric supercar takes more than perfecting the powertrain. It’s about experience…
What’s driving performance?
The key areas where there has been improvement are the availability and technology of battery and the cells that make up those units. Cells are always a compromise between capacity and power, and manufacturers have made significant gains in the ability to deliver high power while still maintaining decent capacity. Increasingly, integrated motors, gearboxes and inverters have also allowed for greater savings in both space and mass.
One of the aspects that has enabled change is the charging technology – including the 800V system on Rapide E, which allows for a faster and more efficient charge – and, also, the network of fast DC chargers, which are becoming increasingly available worldwide. This is what is going to really unlock EV usability and reduce the barriers to ownership.
What hurdles still stand in the way?
The key aspects that continue to make EV development challenging are the mass of the battery systems and their integration within the body structure while still maintaining high body stiffness and crash performance. We need to make sure the structure protects not only the occupant, but also the battery to ensure the car is safe for the user. For Rapide E, the modules are encased in a carbon/Kevlar shell, which meets stringent strength targets, while keeping overall mass to a minimum. The shape of the battery pack also needed to be optimised to fit around the chassis and retain space for the occupants. It is especially challenging in a sports car where you want the driver to sit as low as possible.
How will these challenges be overcome?
In the longer term, technologies, such as solid-state batteries, will enable increased performance without the compromises given to packaging and weight of the current technologies that are being utilised by the majority of EV manufacturers.
What is Aston Martin doing?
Aston Martin is working with a range of cutting-edge suppliers and academics to develop and innovate on the future critical components that will underpin its future EV products. These include battery systems, drivetrain components, aerodynamic capabilities and overall body structure optimisation to accommodate the latest upcoming EV technologies.
We believe an EV sports car should be as exciting and fulfilling as its internal combustion equivalent.