Extended-range electric vehicles (EREV) such as the Chevy Volt and BMW i3, actually suffer from a noise problem.
Range jitters are pretty close to the top of the list of concerns that buyers have when considering electric vehicle technology, which is why EREVs, such as Chevy Volt and BMW i3, as such great middle-ground. If you run out of battery power, the gasoline-powered range-extender kicks in to charge the battery. Pull that stunt in a Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S, and you’ll be stuck on the roadside, waiting for a tow. A Nissan Leaf range extender would sound weird, considering the car’s electric-only statement, but would be a practical thing to have.
One of the great things about electric vehicles, however, is the quiet power that you enjoy driving them. They don’t have a clunky internal combustion engine (ICE) or even, in most cases, a transmission, so they are really quiet. When I drove the Nissan Leaf for the first time, it just amazed me, the disconnect between performance and noise, because there wasn’t any, just the sound of the wind (because I had the windows down).
One complaint that some have had about the Chevy Volt actually has to do with the ICE range-extender. It’s not obnoxious, no worse than driving perhaps a Toyota Prius Plug-In, but absolutely unfitting for an electric vehicle. Supplier KSPG believes it has a solution. Instead of using a standard ICE as a range-extender, which is basically unchanged from ICEs used in conventional vehicles, they started with the idea of being quiet.
For the most part, an electric vehicle range-extender doesn’t need to be all that powerful or versatile. After all, it will only be running within a limited powerband, which keeps it at its most-efficient. By simplifying the ICE’s design, KSPG is able to keep the range-extender small. Even better, in the Fiat 500e testbed, noise and vibration associated with the range-extender starting, running, and stopping, is “barely perceptible.” KSPG’s design, however, isn’t limited to the Fiat 500e, but is designed to be “universally mountable,” not necessarily plug-n-play, but close to universally-compatible.
Image © KSPG