Affordable electric car thanks to Industry 4.0

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Electric cars don’t necessarily have to be expensive. e.GO Life in Aachen, Germany, is proving that modern development and manufacturing techniques can make small-series production particularly affordable.

It looks like Aachen is developing into Germany’s electric car hub. It all started with the “Street Scooter,” a completely electric utility vehicle for delivering mail. Now the Deutsche Post DHL Group is using it nationwide as a specialist for the “last mile”. Germany’s postal service liked the Scooter so much that it wanted it all to itself and took over StreetScooter GmbH in 2014. Approximately 2,000 units should roll off the production line this year, and it will begin selling the Scooter to other customers starting it the 4th quarter.

The small van was created by professors Günther Schuh and Achim Kampker from RWTH Aachen University. After selling the company, Professor Schuh resigned as Managing Director of StreetScooter and founded e-Go Mobile AG, which is also located on the RWTH Aachen Campus.

Starting in the spring of 2018, it will premiere its first model, the e.GO Life, a compact electric city car for use as a second or third vehicle in large households or in commercial fleets. Next year it will produce 100 prototypes, 75 of which will go to Beta testers.

The standard version of the city runabout will be a two-seater that is expected to cost EUR 12,500. A more expensive model with a back seat and two additional batteries (four are standard) will be available for EUR 13,900. That will give it a range of approximately 120 kilometers.

Lean development for lightweight electric car

Like the TWIZY from Renault, the new electric car from Aachen is subject to the new EC Directive L7e for heavy quadricycles. Maximum speed is limited to 90 km/h, and the maximum vehicle width is 1.5 meters. In part for that reason, development costs for the near-series vehicle at the RWTH Aachen Campus will be less than EUR 30 million.

However, the main reason for that is a highly iterative development process similar to the scrum methodology that is used in software development. In the beginning, key requirements and solution approaches have yet to be clarified and will be determined based on intermediate results. The method is considerably more efficient than a long, abstract clarification phase in the beginning.

Thirty percent of the e.GO Life’s first prototype was made using 3D-printed components. Given the production costs, besides the 48-Volt drive system using mass-produced electric motors, its plastic-panel structure and consistent modular design proved to be the most important factors in keeping costs down.

 

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e.GO Life

The completely electric e.GO Life two-seater for quiet city traffic. (Image: e-Go Mobile AG).