Update on ALTe; EREV powertrain company tracking for production-caliber units by December, production ramp in 1Q 2013
Extended range electric vehicle powertrain company ALTe (earlier post) is tracking to produce a limited number of production-caliber vehicle powertrains by December, and plans to ramp up production in the first quarter of 2013, said CEO John Thomas in a recent interview with Green Car Congress. ALTe is targeting fleet vehicles such as delivery trucks, vans and shuttle buses and even potentially taxis and limos, in the light- to medium-duty vehicle classes—initially as conversions, but ultimately extending to an OEM basis.
The first wave of F-150 production-ready prototype extended range electric vehicles is soon due to be delivered to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to kick-off a pilot study in the PG&E fleet. (Earlier post.) Specs for the powertrain in the F-150 include a 2.0L, 4-cylinder naturally aspirated gasoline engine powering an 82 kW (peak) Remy DC generator. Two 82 kW (peak) Remy DC drive motors running at 320V deliver 400 N·m (295 lb-ft) max torque, with a 21.6 kWh Li-ion pack from A123 Systems.
Another fleet testing deal using a different vehicle than the F150 is due to begin in mid-March, Thomas said.
The projected roll-out is delayed from earlier projections as a function of funding, Thomas noted, adding that the company is transitioning from angel funding to being on the brink of closing a major series round, related to activity in the US and in China. The company has already secured two customers in China, Thomas said.
One of the interesting aspects of the China market for ALTe is that the powertrain it made for the F150 and the E350 type vehicles being launched now into pilot studies in the US will be perfectly adequate for even heavier vehicles in China. The roads are so congested, Thomas said, the need for high acceleration and top speed doesn’t exist.
In the US, we might have been criticized for being slow to market, but we’ve been slugging it out hour by hour, code by code to make it reliable. Now we are putting product on the street that reflects that, and that has been complemented by the fleet customers.—John Thomas
ALTe earlier established a Fleet Advisory Board (FAB) composed of fleet directors/managers from leading fleets in North America. The FAB provides feedback to ALTe regarding product, specifications, installation process, overall business model, and so on.
ALTe is in long-term supply agreements with battery maker A123 Systems and electric motor supplier Remy. The company also has a deal with an as-yet unannounced major OE for the supply of its engines, and is working on a parallel engine supply deal for Asia. As it has refined the system, and moved closer to certification, it has maintained the same basic system specs (e.g., pack, motors, power), but has improved the systems surrounding the main systems to deliver higher efficiencies at lower cost, Thomas said.
At a high level, we are the integrator, and we optimize systems, and we drive affordable solutions through what we think will be significant volumes. However, our reach goes beyond that.
Through the three years we have been doing this, we have found that there is a significant lack of well-performing electric and hybrid components in the industry. We are out of necessity driving innovation into devices that help us have a better overall system. Our team reaches deep into heating and cooling systems, including the pumps, control switches, and valves that make the heating and cooling of battery, power electronics and motor perform in a wide variety of ambient conditions in very efficient way and with affordable costs. We are focusing on those kinds of things to drive costs down.
In the higher tech world, we are actively pioneering in cooperating with National Semiconductor to do cell management at the cell level, to put our own battery management system in trucks. We can make other people’s cells and modules work very well with our BMS, and make it the way we like.
Our vision is to have a powertrain kit so that it is immaterial whether it is directed at a retrofit in a conversion garage or if it goes to an OEM for installation in a truck or van.—John Thomas
ALTe has a preferred installer partnership with vehicle remarketer Manheim and and has formed a joint venture with Inmatech, Inc. to produce and sell hybrid electric storage (HES) devices.
ALTe is currently hiring and plans to ramp up from 50 to 88 engineers by the end of the year.