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FHI Introduces Subaru STELLA EV Concept

28 June 2008

The STELLA minicar EV concept.

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the maker of Subaru automobiles, unveiled a concept electric drive version of its STELLA minicar. FHI will provide five units of the Plug-in STELLA Concept for use at the upcoming G8 Summit in Japan (7-9 July).

The Subaru Plug-in STELLA Concept combines the electric drive system employed in the R1e (earlier post) with the Subaru STELLA minicar platform. FHI plans to use the Plug-in STELLA Concept in the development and test-marketing of the next generation of EVs in Japan in the near future.

The STELLA EV seats four, has a maximum speed of 100 kph (62 mph) and a range of 80km (50 miles) per charge. A 9.2 kWh, 346V Li-ion battery pack drives an electric motor with 40 kW output and that develops 150 Nm torque.

The pack employs fast-charge lithium-ion battery technology that eliminates the typical lithium-ion battery issue of charge memory loss, allowing partial charges and quick charges that do not decrease battery life. The battery pack, originally developed in partnership with NEC Corporation, uses lithium manganese oxide spinel (LiMn2O4) as the cathode active material. The crystalline spinel structure makes the battery resistant to overcharging and provides high thermal stability. The pack can recharge to 80% capacity in 15 minutes.

The conventional STELLA uses a 658cc DOHC 4-cylinder engine coupled with Subaru’s i-CVT transmission and offers fuel efficiency of 23 km/L (54 mpg US).

Four of the five will be used to transport government officials and other participants at the summit, while one vehicle will be displayed at the Environmental Showcase, an exhibition and demonstration area in the International Media Center, and it will also be available for a test drive.

In addition, FHI will provide one STELLA Concept model to the Japan Post group for use in mail collection and delivery in the vicinity of Toyako during the summit.

FHI has jointly developed the Subaru R1e with Tokyo Electric Power Co., Inc. (TEPCO), a leading utility in Japan, and the vehicle’s performance has been tested since June 2006. Forty units of the R1e model, equipped with lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries, have been used by TEPCO as part of its corporate fleet and by the Kanagawa Prefectural Government, providing performance results that further advance FHI’s EV development work.

June 28, 2008 in Electric (Battery) | Permalink | Comments (29) | TrackBack (0)


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Lets look at the figures

~ A 9.2 kWh, 346V Li-ion battery pack drives an electric motor with 40 kW output and that develops 150 Nm torque.

~ It has a maximum speed of 100 kph (62 mph) and a range of 80km (50 miles) per charge.

~ The pack can recharge to 80% capacity in 15 minutes.

So ,,, a 10kWh battery pack is fine for an entry level BEV. This gets the technology introduced for a reasonable cost, but will not fill the needs of most. Still, those who can live with it's range limitation will buy it in sufficient numbers to sell out production.

As battery costs decrease due to volume manufacture, a 20kWh pack will give 200 km of range and be acceptable to a far greater number of people. Then a 40kWh pack will extend the range to near 400 km, that is competitive with most liquid fueled cars today.

The BEV will begin to be introduced purely on economics, but soon people will prefer a silent car that has no polluting tailpipe, and few parts to break down.

I for one expect the switch to Electric cars to be massive and far faster than anyone ever predicts.

My prediction = Immediate sales of 100% of production for 5 years or until the market is saturated* , if an affordable purchase price is provided. ... Notice that I place no limits on production rates, and expect massive production will be necessary to meet demand.
*(market is saturated when 90% of people drive a BEV, and this needs over 500 million units)

My prediction = Due to an increase in car ownership expected, a world BEV manufacturing capacity of 100 million units per year could be made and sold each year for the duration of our lifetimes.

The initial price of this car will be about $20.000 for this EV including the $5000, 9.2 kWh battery. The following is a quote from an earlier announcement by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI) about the almost identical electric Subarus to be launched in Japan in 2009.

“…but FHI said it plans to have its electric cars down to around ¥2 million (US$17,500) apiece by 2012 or 2013. Mori said that by the mid-2010s, mass production will significantly decrease the cost of batteries, enabling electric cars to come down to below ¥1.5 million (US$13,100).”

At $20.000 it will cost $5000 to $7000 more than a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) that already have a market despite of their limited speed max 25mph and range 35 miles. I think the introduction of this kind of EVs will blow away the market for neighborhood electric vehicles. Its lithium battery will also last much longer than the lead acid batteries in the NEVs.

@ Henrik ~ "The initial price of this car will be about $20.000 for this EV including the $5000, 9.2 kWh battery."

I don't know where you got the numbers Henrik but I think they will sell if you are correct.

Progressing this a bit into the later upgrades, but not expecting any economy of mass production to reduce the prices.
$20,000 for the basic car, gets 100 km range
$25,000 for the extended range 200 km car
$35,000 for the preferred range of 400 km comparable with a normal gas car.
We see these prices are competitive with North American cars now, and it is obvious that they will sell very well.

This is no longer a price bottleneck, is simply a business & political decision to open up to this new BEV technology.

With such volaility in world markets at increasing rate in the last few years, the quoted prices can only be nominal. i.e. BHP have negoiated an 85% incraese in iron ore to China. Second tier companies can expect the full flow-on in short order.
The 150% increse in fuel costs in the last 3 years garuenties this especially as the alternative supplier is half a world away.
But back to the topic. The vehicle as descried certainly matches my impession of the possible.
(admittedly there is little in the way of detail).

John I beleive that you are somewhat optimistic, in your analysis, as things will need to fall into place rather nicely. So far we have scraped by the skin of our teeth. There are pleasing numbers of determined people who must share your optimism.
Many well considered comments re bringing appropriate' as opposed to wish list technologies to market. In a consumer driven vs reality driven world here can only be one outcome no matter how many compromises are considered.
This product strikes an acceptable balance low weight modest and well targeted and the expanding awareness of the scale of changes required.
Lets hope such level headed interperatations in the future bear fruit.

@J. Taylor
Unfortunately, the range you suggest for these upgraded vehicles is a bit optimistic. It is 80 km for the basis car as you say in your first post. Plus the battery is heavy. The 9.2 kWh battery is likely a 200 lbs pack. Now if you upgrade to a 36.8 kWh pack this is a 800 lbs battery pack. This is so heavy and large that you need to put it in a stronger and larger car with more air drag and more weight. The Phonix SUT has a 35 kWh pack and they say it can go about 100+ miles. However, that car is big. The smaller Mitsubishi’s MiEV can also do 100 miles but using only a 16kWh pack. To be realistic, with current safe, fast charge capable battery technology at about 75-110 Wh/kg it is not possible to make a generally useful EV with much more than a 100 miles (160 km) range.

I know Tesla has a 220 miles range. However, it is a small sports car with low air drag and they use a cobalt based lithium battery with high energy density that gives it a longer range. That battery is, however, unstable. They will never use it in a mass produced EV where the number of accidents with be 1000 of times higher because they will make 1000 of times more vehicles.

The only problem with EVs compared to ICEs is their short range but that problem can be solved completely with fast charge capable EVs (max 10 minutes) and the establishment of a fast charge EV network along all highways (every 25 miles or so). This is what we can do to get off fossils as quickly as possible.



Another look at the numbers show that BEV Curb Vehicle Weight is not well linked to the battery weight. A 200 lb battery makes up less than 10% of the curb weight, and larger battery packs do not necessarily make the car a lot heavier.

~> Subaru STELLA EV ~ Curb Weight 2,340 lb (1060 kg),
range 50 miles(80km) 9.2 kWh battery, 40 kW electric motor
~> i MiEV ~ Curb Weight 2,380 lbs,
range 100 miles (160km), 16kWh battery 47 kw motor
~> Tesla ~ Curb Weight 2690 lb, (in production, sold out)
range 220 miles (350km), 53 kWh Battery(=450 kg), 185 kW electric motor.
~> Volt curb weight: 3375 lbs,
EV-range 40 miles, 16kWh battery , 45 kW electric motor
~> Phoenix ~ Curb Weight 4,820 lbs,(in production, available)
range 100+ miles, 35 kWh Battery, 100 kw motor.

What we see is that motor size and curb weight are both factors in BEV range, with larger packs being better in km range / kWh battery pack size than smaller packs. I suspect this has something to do with the loading "peak-power" requirements.

In any event, the number of companies planning or delivering Electric cars is increasing, and we will no doubt soon have a good variety of BEV options to choose from.

Keep in mind that at least 1/3 and up to 1/2 of the kwh in these systems is unuseable. Conservative estimates recommend limiting the state of charge between 30% and 80%, to maintain battery life.

Japan could install induction strips under the road on their highways, it would charge the car enough to keep the battery topped off as you drove.

Japan would be the first nation to go off oil completely.. details I leave to the japanese engineers. 80km range is probably fine for Japan anyways.. high population density.

I am confused...when have lithium-ion batteries EVER had a memory effect?

"The pack employs fast-charge lithium-ion battery technology that eliminates the typical lithium-ion battery issue of charge memory loss..."

Its progress. But its not really much of an advance.

The most significant thing is the announcement that NEC has a LiMn2O4 cell ready for production, that exihibits fast recharge capabilities.

But this particular pregnant roller skate, would not sell in the USA. It only could as a NEV, which collectively are produced and sold in miniscule numbers, since it has no provision for the safety equipment and structure needed for a road vehicle.

I too believe the electrified vehicles will come very fast. But what the impatient ones consider fast, and what I consider fast, may be two different things. By 2015 the vehicles with HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs dscriptions will constitute over half the vehicles sold.

HEVs will be the predominant percentage of vehicles sold. And electrified vehicles will rise over time to probably 75% of the market.

But freight trucks and other appplications will still require fossil. I do agree that within the elctrification of ground transport the mix will shift from HEVs to PHEVs and then to BEVs, over time.

Many here are all too prone to find conspiracies and way underestimate the time it takes to actually engineer and then mass produce something as complex as an auto.

Especially when the item is totally alien to the investment in current mass manufacture tooling. Manufacturing HEVs, PHEVs & BEVs requires dsigning and building new factories first, as well as designing new new products.

Battery technology determines the system that is viable. HEVs--> PHEVs --> BEVs over the course of two decades. And BEVs wil still be for specialized applications like urban runabouts.

But I think the PHEV will be more than the transition state vehicle for 15-20 years. Battery tech needs another order of magnitude improvement before it can reach general utility in pure BEVs.

The cul-de-sac of Hydrogen FCEVs is becoming more evident, too. The sources for Hydrogen simply don't exist without resort to fossil, and that is the weakness. High temperaute electrolysis, is a dream of peoplel without very much of a technical foundation. Who cares if it only produces the worst GHG out the tailpipe, if it consumes prodigious amounts of fossil to make a little free hydrogen?

In any case,if the GAIA religious converts get out of the way, Man will convert within a couple of decades, which is perfectly suitable timeframe.

There is no hurry, despite the AGW hysterics, and a few decades of fossil consumption as we move to cleaner generation and electric ground transport is fine, even to the Peakist cults. The world's oil supplies are easily sufficient for ten times that two decades.

Curb weight is really important. High curb weight means low gas mileage.

Now the progress on battery seems to be going well, I am interested in range extenders, if a dedicated design can overcome its build-in 10% conversion loss.

Concepts do nothing for the environment. Mass produce 100,000 of these and then we can discuss.

Before tou get all bubbly it likely is altrsafy a 400lb pack. Most of the "cheap" packs now use 110 to 130 wh/kg designs.

It it had been 200 lb they would have made it bigger to increase range.

As for 200-300 mile ranges... that is far better handled either with a fuel cell range extender and a small 350 bar h2 tank or a pure fuel cell car UNLESS your dealing with a BIG car and rich people and the ability to have a GARGANTUAN curb weight.

Over the life of all the cars in a fleet it is better to use a light as possible compact as possible fuel cell extender then it is to cram many hundreds of pounds of limited batteries. And in the huge car its FAR better for the environment and all of us to use 1 h2 system then to use enough batteries to create an entire bleeping parking lot full of evs.

James Lovelock ceditited with bringing the Gaian view to prominence, was at one time reported as saying that he would have no problem having a nuclear waste dump in his backyard as it would help reduce heating costs.
While he has since reversed this coment, (little reported), which aspect of Gaia'n theory do you reject?
Your lackadasial approach to the problems we face show your simple world view and are not very well explored.
The rest of your comments are sensible and conservative. A pleasure to read.

Herm; I live in Japan and, until recently, worked for Yazaki--the electronics supplier for Nissan, Toyota and Renault. Their R&D department works in tandem with their client companies. You are SPOT ON in your claim--these will sell very well and in large numbers in Japan, and a lot sooner than people think. The battery development and production is really ramping up here.

Stas; I think you're off the mark a little. This model is very similar to the Kei micro car models that are selling in the millions in Japan. They go on the highway, have airbags and pass safety tests. Japanese are choosing them more and more and I believe that western countries will have to pass legislation to let electric versions of the Kei models on to their roads. Americans dying to get rid of their gas guzzlers will line up in droves to buy them...especially in the face of Peak Oil and $7.00 gallon gas. Obama would do very well in popularity to get rid of silly American safety standards that don't allow micro-cars to be produced in huge numbers in the US. We've had ours for 9 years and have nothing to complain about....My Volvo now seems like a dinosaur.

I just saw a Smart car zipping down the highway past me tonight. The fuel efficient cars are getting here, for sure.

I don't know, though the concept car is technically better than vehicles like the ZENN.

However, anyone thinking about buying a car like that would want ask the people from where they work are if it's okay to plug-in to any outside electrical outlet! ;)

@ Henrik ~> Tks for pointing out that my math got a bit jumpy there ... time for a correction ..
Using your price numbers
"The initial price of this car will be about $20.000 for this EV including the $5000, 9.2 kWh battery."

Progressing this a bit into the later upgrades, not expecting economy of mass production to reduce the prices, but expecting battery weights to be reduced.
$20,000 with 10kWh battery for the basic car, gets 80 km range,
$25,000 with 20kWh battery for the extended range 160 km car,
$40,000 with 50 kWh battery for the preferred range of 400 km, comparable with a normal gas car.

These prices are competitive with North American cars now, and will sell very well.
This is no longer a price bottleneck, is simply a business & political decision to open up to this new BEV technology, and let the market incentives drive improved battery development.

My feeling is that the fast recharge system needs to be made capable of recharging a 50 kWh battery pack in about 1/2 hour or so as this is the time spent on a fuel/rest stop by most people, and the eventual battery capacity that will be preferred. I see that Tesla is getting slightly less range per kWh of battery than the Stella & iMiEV do, but low mileage is a penalty for speed and acceleration,.

I agree with "stuck in shizuoka" these will sell very well and in large numbers in Japan, and a lot sooner than people think.
They will also take over the rest of the world auto market and sell in record numbers.

You have to factor in the fact that every extra pack specialy early on will weigh enough to hit mpg and thus 2x the bat does not mean 2x the range and it also slows the car down and increases its stopping distance and puts more stress on the suspension and brakes and motor.. It is entirely possible that they CANT make the car at this time in a 150 mile range version and wont be able to get the batteries compact enough and light enough to work.

2* the battery doesntequal twice the range only if ther is a second car and one passenger thrown in?
Is this a tric question?


"it is not possible to make a generally useful EV with much more than a 100 miles (160 km) range"

Remember that the RAV4 EV had 100 miles range, using NiMH batteries of just 65 Wh/kg.

If these were replaced with the same weight of Lithium-iron phosphate batteries (such as A123 or Valence) at 110 Wh/kg, it would have a range of 170 miles.

However, remember that Electrovaya are claiming that their MN-series (manganese based) lithium cells can reach 330 Wh/kg. This would give a retrofitted RAV4 EV (with the same weight of MN batteries), a range of 510 miles.

In reality the range of any lithium conversion would be more than these figures suggest, as LiIon batteries have a much better charge in/out efficiency compared to NiMH batteries (ie 98% vs 70-80%).

The RAV4 EV was a prototype. Maybe the stated 100 miles ranges was done on gentle driving and doing a 100% electric depletion which will dramatically shorten the life of the battery. To quote, jmilner above “Keep in mind that at least 1/3 and up to 1/2 of the kwh in these systems is unusable.” This is clearly seen in the Volt where the 16 kWh battery delivers a 40 miles all electric because they need to restrict SOC to 50% to preserve battery life.

I don’t know the specifics of the Electrovaya, but I doubt it is a safe as needed for mass production of EVs and I doubt it can fast charge or has a sufficient cycle life. Also it contains Cobalt which is already expensive and will increase much more in price when serious production of lithium batteries is needed. Eventually we need to produce billions of kWh of batteries per year globally in order to have enough batteries to power about a 100 million new EVs per year. All batteries with exotic metals will therefore not make it into the future.

The range issue of EVs could technically be solved if they could develop fast charge capable, safe, and high energy density batteries that could do, say, 300 to 400 Wh/kg. However, then there is still the issue of price of these batteries. At $500 per kWh the price of a long range EV will carry a price premium of $25000 (50kWh*$500) to $50000 (100kWh*$500) on top of the price of a similar sized ICE car. This is a big problem.

The most realistic scenario for the mass adaption of EVs is therefore that we build a fast charge grid along all highways and focus on affordable short range EVs (about 25kWh) that can do about 100 miles without destroying the battery life and that charges in less than 10 minutes. Countries like Denmark and Israel that will follow this track will be much better off in the long-run because oil and natural gas is going to be much more expensive driven by relentlessly increasing demand from the developing world.


The RAV4 EV was not just a concept - hundreds are still on the roads in the hands of private owners in the USA, and they report easily attaining over 100 miles per charge (often up to 120 miles). Many now have over 100,000 miles on the clock with no problems.

As for the Electrovaya battery, it is based on manganese oxide, not cobalt:

The advantage of this approach is higher energy density and comparable safety characteristics to Electrovaya’s Phosphate-Series chemistry.

As for redundent kWh capacity (ie the dead weight issue), please note that *modern* lithium-battery designs can easily manage 2,000 cycles at 90% discharge. Altairnano are the leaders here though, having shown a battery that managed 15,000 cycles at 100% discharge, each cycle only 5 minutes long, with negligible capacity or performance decay.

It confuses me when people seem so stuck in the past when it comes to thoughts of what batteries and EVs should be capable of????

they use a cobalt based lithium battery with high energy density that gives it a longer range. That battery is, however, unstable. They will never use it in a mass produced EV
Not to mention the sheer cost of the cobalt.
Japan would be the first nation to go off oil completely.
Japan burns a substantial amount of oil to make electricity.
There is no hurry, despite the AGW hysterics
The skyrocketing price of oil indicates that we are already too late to prevent a great deal of pain.

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