Are you torn between the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf? Do you wish that GM had an all-electric vehicle with greater range and more capacity than the Volt? You might be surprised, but it's actually available now. If you prefer an all-battery powered vehicle option, like the Nissan Leaf, but you also want a larger, crossover vehicle, then AMP may have the vehicle for you with their electric conversion Equinox.
Not unlike the way they built their X Prize competition entry AMP'd Saturn Sky, AMP takes a stock Chevrolet Equinox, and replaces the gas engine and fuel tank with batteries and electric motors. AMP's philosophy is to let big manufacturers take care of the vehicle development and testing, and to concentrate on just the electric propulsion. An AMP converted vehicle is still under manufacturer's warranty for the majority of the vehicle systems. The body, the interior equipment and finishes, and even the vehicle's safety systems and crash test rating are developed by GM.
More pictures and further details about this vehicle after the cut.
I had the opportunity to test drive an early AMP Equinox while covering the X Prize competition at Michigan International Speedway last month. This is the "forthcoming crossover vehicle" mentioned in our interview with AMP's CEO Steve Burns earlier this year. The vehicle is a stock Equinox, and only a small "Electric" badge on the back gate gives away the fact that this is anything other than just another Equinox.
While the electric Equinox wouldn't beat a Tesla Roadster off the line, it has remarkable acceleration (as do other electric drive vehicles) with only a quiet whine of electric motors, rather than the roar of an internal combustion engine. Even when traveling at 35 - 40 miles per hour, it has surprising power to accelerate. Although this was only a short test drive, it was exciting to drive what has to be the largest all-electric vehicle on the road. The AMP Equinox shows that electric drive can be applied to a range of vehicles, and that larger, roomier vehicles can also be made to work with more efficient alternative propulsion systems.
AMP is using lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO) batteries, rather than lithium ion for power storage. The LiFePO batteries are about 20% heavier than lithium ion, but they are more stable and don't require the extensive thermal controls provided on the Chevy Volt and some other battery vehicles. AMP expects a 150 mile range for its Equinox. The direct drive motors can be used for regenerative braking, but the vehicle still has its original GM brakes when faster braking is needed.
AMP has recently announced a long-term agreement with electric motor manufacturer Remy to provide motors for AMP vehicles. AMP is still a small niche company, and will only produce vehicles in small quantities compared to any of the major manufacturers. But clearly, more varieties of electric vehicles can be built to serve other market segments besides the passenger car space most automakers are presently targeting.
The first two electric Equinoxes are scheduled to be delivered to Dayton Power and Light later this year for testing use as fleet vehicles. The conversion cost for an Equinox is about $25,000 after all tax incentives, plus the cost of the stock vehicle. But that does not put it too far beyond than the cost of a Chevy Volt with more interior space and a much farther all-electric range.
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