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Battery-switchable electric Commodore breaks 24-hour world EV distance record

EV Engineering fit the battery pack in the engine compartment of the Commodore to enable switching. Source: EV Engineering. Click to enlarge.

The battery-switchable fully-electric Holden Commodore developed by EV Engineering in Australia (earlier post) recently unofficially broke the distance record for a production electric car, achieving 1,886 (1,172 miles) kilometers of driving over a 24-hour period.

A team of 16 engineers and technicians from EV Engineering and its member companies began the attempt at 1 pm on Saturday 21 July, supported by a team in the workshop operating the semi-automated switch station that switches a depleted battery for a fully-charged one. Each team member drove one loop of 122 kilometers (75.8 miles) on public roads between Port Melbourne and Geelong, with the distance record beaten at 10:08 am on Sunday 22 July.

While our achievement is not an official record, it’s a sound validation of our car’s capabilities. When we began the project to develop a proof-of-concept electric Commodore, it was critical that we incorporate ground-breaking battery switch technology. That’s what got us across the line. We were able to quickly switch our depleted battery for a fully charged one, so we didn’t have to park and plug in in order to recharge. We were able to just drive, switch, and keep going. We are very proud of the team’s efforts. It shows that with battery switch, the age of the electric car has truly arrived.

—CEO of EV Engineering, Ian McCleave

The powertrain of the electric Commodore, including the motor, single speed gearbox and differential packaged between the rear wheels. Source: EV Engineering. Click to enlarge.

At the end of each 122 km loop, the car had between 20 and 25% charge left in the battery, indicating that more than 150 km (93 miles) would have been achievable. (EV Engineering anticipated that each electric Commodore would have a range of approximately 160 km (99 miles) before recharging was required, and deliver a range of between 120–150 km (75–93 miles) in real-world driving.) The depleted battery was switched in the EV Engineering workshop at the end of each lap a total of 15 times.

The 30 kWh battery pack is fitted in place of the engine and transmission (the packaging extends from the engine compartment back into the transmission tunnel) with latches which allow the complete pack to be removed in a battery switch station and replaced by a freshly charged pack. The cells are supplied by SB LiMotive, the JV between Bosch and Samsung. EV Engineering created novel battery cell terminals in-house; screwed connectors are laser welded to the cells allowing the battery modules to be disassembled if needed.

The powertrain of the Commodore—based a UQM Technologies PowerPhase Select 145 electric propulsion system with a 145 kW motor delivering 400 N·m (295 lb-ft) of torque—is packaged beween the rear wheels. The power electronics module—including the motor inverter and high voltage battery connector—replaces the fuel tank in the original vehicle.

The mechanism used to switch the battery is a scaled-down version of the Battery Switch Stations that will be rolled out in Australia by Better Place. Australia is the third roll-out market for Better Place, which already has operational networks in Israel and Denmark.

In addition to the battery switch, the Commodore’s pack can be recharged in approximately 8 hours (16 amp AC) and also takes a DC quick charge.

The Society of Automotive Engineers Australasia (SAE) observed the trial across its entire 24-hour duration, and is satisfied that:

  • The event was completed on public roads and in compliance with local road laws;

  • The event was completed within one continuous 24-hour period, from 1:00 pm on 21 July until 1:00 pm on 22 July 2012.

  • The same EV Engineering electric Commodore was used across the entire 24 hour event;

  • The EV Engineering electric Commodore was propelled by electric power for the entire 24 hour event, and no other fuel or energy sources were used to propel the vehicle at any stage;

  • The measuring equipment used to record time and distance travelled was not tampered with; and

  • The GPS unit mounted in the test vehicle recorded a total distance travelled of 1,886 km across the 24-hour period.

Powertrain and power electronics (minus the undercover) in place. Source: EV Engineering. Click to enlarge.

EV Engineering is a collaborative venture between leading Australian automotive suppliers, Air International, Bosch, Continental, Futuris, GE and electric car infrastructure provider, Better Place, to develop a proof of concept Australian electric vehicle.

In July, the project completed the build of 7 fully-electric vehicles based on the locally manufactured Holden Commodore as proof-of-concept to demonstrate the technical viability and attractiveness to customers of a large EV over a two-year evaluation period. Each car will drive approximately 30,000–50,000 km (16,200–27,000 miles) over the coming two years.

If successful, the project will allow technologies to be considered for possible future mass production. The Australian Government’s Green Car Innovation Fund is contributing A$3.55 million to the project.



Validation of the Better Place model.


Good question. It could be so.

Yaskawa Japan has produced new (DC-AC, AC-DC and DC-DC) power converters with a 96% reduction in weight and size. A 128 KW/L is achieved with more to come. The very small size/weight is very interesting for on-board applications, for EVs and Aircraft?


Hopefully there is a water tight protective cover over the electronics bay to prevent all that snow, water, and road salt from doing its destructive work should this car ever be sold other than in Australia.


I know of a few places I could hide battery packs on the way to work.

Then I could pick them up at night in my Hummer and charge them on a fast charger.

2 packs each way. One set per day; that's 4 , plus 4 more "always" on the charger.

Now I just need a few grants from CARB and DOE.


TT, fire up your gasoline-powered PC and go for those grants.


If successful, the project will allow technologies to be considered for possible future mass production. The Australian Government’s Green Car Innovation Fund is contributing A$3.55 million to the project.

Let me see if I've got this right. "It will be considered for possible future mass production, if successful."

So as I understand it - being successful is not going to be enough ? It will still need to be "considered".
Who decides that ? And if they decide not to, do the Australian taxpayers then get their $3.55million back ?

I have a better idea. How about not running these cars around for two years racking up the miles ? How about getting them into limited production first (like Tesla did) and let the market decide ? Early adopters will always find some problems a lot quicker than an evaluation team can ever hope to do.

Or is this really about trade protection for Holden against Nissan ?

Let's see, a Leaf is $37-39,000 in North America but with the help of the Australian govt is jacked up to $59,000 in Australia. Hmm.. Isn't that price differential going to diminish the number of possible Australian sales big time ?

Excessive tarriff barriers on tested EVs that happen to be available right now has turned out to have been a fairly successful policy so far. It was found recently there to be only around 59 registered EVs on Australian roads today according to AEVA members who have been checking- see their website.

With Nissan pushed out of the way Holden et al. are free to dawdle their way into the future selling two more years of gasoline only cars while greenwashing themselves with the Innovation Fund.

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