Next Glimpse Inside the eBox
When Tom Gage, president of AC Propulsion (ACP), showed me an eBox in August, 2006 , it looked good. The eBox is an electric vehicle conversion done by ACP. It uses a Scion xB as the base vehicle and replaces the internal combustion engine with an electric drivetrain similar to the one ACP developed for their ground-up vehicle, the tZero.
The first eBox Gage showed me demonstrated that ACP is serious about making an electric vehicle that not only performs well, but also has the look of a professionally-built, commercially-viable electric car. Sure, there were a few exposed sensor wires that were left over from testing, and one or two control switches that looked like they were from a local Radio Shack, but overall, the eBox looked like it was almost ready for production release.
I met up with Gage again at the recent Alternative Car Expo in Santa Monica, California. ACP brought a newer eBox to the show. It was the third one ever built, but no one would know that from looking at it. It looked like the 30th, or maybe the 300th, or even the 3000th. Every aspect of it was so clean, so perfect… It looked like a vehicle that could have been sitting on a showroom floor at a local Scion dealership.
The interior seemed flawless. All switches and gauges were sleek and smooth. The carpet installation was professional.
The engine compartment was “clean enough to eat off,” with a beautifully-finished controller dominating the view under the hood. All the electronic and mechanical components looked as though they had been assembled on an automotive production line.
I did not get a chance to drive the new eBox, but if looks are any indication, this vehicle is absolutely ready for marketing in the real world.
I spoke with Gage for a few minutes to get updates on the new eBox. He told me that the most significant design change on the new vehicle involved moving the battery pack down and back. Doing so brought the weight distribution closer to the ideal 50% on the front wheels/50% on the rear wheels value. It also lowered the vehicle’s center of gravity to further improve handling.
The new eBox came equipped with a custom-made gear box which results in 10% better acceleration versus previous models. The top speed is still plenty fast. It is electronically limited to 100mph at a motor speed of 13,000 RPM.
Otherwise, Gage told me that the fundamental design of the new eBox was “essentially the same” as the vehicle I drove in August.
Gage explained that most of ACP’s recent improvements to the eBox involved developing more efficient manufacturing methods. Since lowering the purchase cost is one of the most important factors in making EVs successful, anything that decreases manufacturing costs is extremely important.
“A lot of people are concerned about the price,” Gage explained, “It’s a $55,000 conversion and you’ve got to bring your own car, which is another $15,000, so it’s a $70,000 car. But I think most people who drive it and can afford it agree that it is worth it, not only for the environmental efficiency and energy benefits, but just for the sheer driving pleasure.”
Gage’s comments bring up an important point. Sure, a few companies have recently introduced plans for two-seat electric sports cars in the $70,000-$100,000+ price range, but the eBox offers similar perfomance on a platform that can carry five adults. And the eBox is currently taking orders for delivery in 2007. It is true that I cannot afford $70,000 for a car right now, but if I could, I would insist on buying one that could haul my whole family of four. The eBox fits that bill without any struggle.
The fact that it can blow away a Mustang GT is only icing on the cake.
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