A common refrain from green vehicle skeptics is that the costs of developing plug-in models are far too expensive. Continental Tires recently unveiled a Renault sedan converted into an all-electric vehicle as an answer to these critics. This EV conversion used more than 40 components produced by Continental and partner companies that already exist on the market. Experts at the company’s Systems & Technology Automotive Department and Engineering Services Division achieved this conversion in quick order without massive costs. Continental not only presented the EV conversion but noted that the vehicle has already undergone 6,200 miles of testing.
Continental combined a 70 kW electric motor and 18 kWh lithium-ion battery pack in this unique drive system. The company’s press release notes that the motor is the only externally excited motor on the market at present. This innovative approach to motor design increases energy efficiency no matter the speed without using expensive rare-earth metals. Continental placed the battery pack underneath the rear seats to avoid sacrificing trunk and leg space. Performance estimates for this converted EV include a per-charge range of 93 miles and the ability to hit 60 miles per hour from a full stop in 11.9 seconds.
Designers streamlined the onboard charger and electronic control unit to balance passenger comfort with overall range. The 10kW onboard charger allows for a full battery recharge in less than three hours. This charger was designed to be scalable from coupes to pickup trucks without eating into valuable space. A second-generator electronic control unit is 30% smaller than the previous model, allowing greater space for drive components. Continental altered an existing engine control unit (ECU) to control system temperature, performance and recharging.
Customizable features in this all-electric sedan include the central console and driving pedal. A 12.3-inch LCD screen adjacent to the driver’s seat offers constant updates on battery charge based on speed, traffic and driving behaviors. This display also offers tips on how to drive more efficiently as well as an updated map of public chargers. Continental hopes that this innovative display technology would be adaptable to a driver’s needs. The company’s Accelerator Force Feedback Pedal represents the first active pedal on the market. This advanced pedal uses feedback signals to increase or decrease pressure on the accelerator depending on driving conditions. A driver would feel greater pressure on the pedal when battery charge is low or road conditions require lower speeds.
Automakers often focus entirely under the hood when describing hybrids and plug-in vehicles. Continental spent considerable time outlining advanced tires and interior design that reduce the vehicle’s environmental impact. The Conti-eContact tires included with this sedan reduce rolling resistance by 30% compared to standard Continental tires. These tires allow for automatic pressure monitoring through the central console and precise handling thanks to specialized treads. Continental partnered with Benecke-Kaliko to outfit the vehicle’s interior with Acella Eco Natural upholstery. Benecke-Kaliko claims that this bluish upholstery uses 40% renewable materials and requires fewer resources to manufacture. This EV conversion will not be hitting the market but Continental has laid down the gauntlet for automakers dragging their feet about green vehicles.