KSPG is 100-year-old automotive supplier that could, if it wanted to, produce a complete engine. That's not the company's plan, though, since it doesn't want to compete against its many customers. Therefore, the range extender concept engine that KSPG had on display at the Detroit Auto Show is something a bit new and different, both for the company and for the industry. It is a complete engine, but not one designed to power a car on its own. Instead, it is ready to be dropped into someone's EV to provide a bit of petroleum assurance to combat this range anxiety thing we keep hearing about.
Designed to fit into a space about the size of a spare wheel well, the two-cylinder, four-stroke,
137-pound engine is a product of both KSPG and FEV. It is meant to turn an EV into a serial hybird, as the engine is only there to generate electric power. That's why it doesn't matter where you put it, and the small size gives designers and engineers plenty of flexibility. KSPG Automotive's Gerd Kleinert told AutoblogGreen that this is a solution for our time.
"We are convinced that this is a kind of bridge technology from the current combustion engine to electric drive," he said. "The biggest point in electric cars is still the battery. If somone offers a battery that is the szie of a 50-liter [13.2-gallon] gas tank with the same energy content with the same weight that you can recharge it in three minutes, everyone would drive electric." But those vehicles aren't here quite yet. "That's the reason we think there is a need for this bridge technology becuase it guarantees you you will get home, even if you run out of electricity. You only need a small battery, which drives the cost down." Because, if you take some of the cost out of the pack and put it into the KSPG range extender, you can still use your car as an EV most days and retain the ability to go on a road trip when you want to.
KSPG began working on the range-extender project about a year ago, Kleinert said, adding that after the engine's introduction at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2011 KSPG began talking to three potential customers about using this engine in their EVs. If that comes to pass, KSPG's production capacity could be 10,000 units a year, to start, Kleinert said. A full vehicle prototype is due in the summer of 2012 to try and generate more interest. Kleinert wouldn't say how much the engine would cost, just that it would be at "an acceptable price."