An electric sportscar with a five-speed manual gearbox has been designed by Morgan with the support of British technology specialists Zytek and Radshape. Shown as a concept to test market reaction, the radical new roadster could enter production if there is sufficient demand.
"We wanted to see how much fun you can have in an electric sportscar, so we have built one to help us find out," explained Morgan operations director Steve Morris. "The Plus E combines Morgan's traditional look with high-technology construction and a powertrain that delivers substantial torque instantly at any speed. With the manual gearbox to increase both touring range and driver involvement, it will be a fantastic car to drive."
The Plus E is based on a tailored version of Morgan's lightweight aluminium platform chassis clothed in the revised ‘traditional' body from the new BMW V8-powered Plus 8, also launched at Geneva. Power is delivered by a new derivative of Zytek's 70kW (94bhp) 300Nm electric engine, which is already proven with US vehicle manufacturers.
Mounted in the transmission tunnel, the Zytek unit drives the rear wheels through a conventional five-speed manual gearbox. When the clutch pedal is pressed, electronic controls automatically match motor revs to the output shaft speed to ensure a perfect change.
"A multi-speed transmission allows the motor to spend more time operating in its sweet spot, where it uses energy more efficiently, particularly at high road speeds," explained Zytek Automotive managing director Neil Heslington. "It also allows us to provide lower gearing for rapid acceleration and will make the car more engaging for keen drivers.
"The programme will deliver two engineering concept vehicles. The first, with the five-speed manual box and Liion batteries, will be used for preliminary engineering assessment while the second will be closer to potential production specification, with alternative battery technologies and possibly a sequential gearbox.
"The superb capability of the finished car reflects the passion with which the Zytek team has applied their considerable expertise," adds Morris. "The project is a true collaboration aimed at delivering as much driving pleasure as possible in a zero emissions vehicle. It worked really well, with aluminium fabrication specialist Radshape paying particular attention to retaining chassis stiffness and weight distribution to ensure excellent dynamics and ride quality with good steering feel."
The collaborative research and development project is part-funded by a Ј100,000 grant from the UK Government's Niche Vehicle Network Programme, which is managed by CENEX to promote the development and commercialisation of new low-carbon vehicle technologies.
Zytek's sales and marketing director Steve Tremble said that one of the reasons for joining the consortium is to show the ease with which his company's technology can be integrated with a rear-wheel drive platform. "With maximum torque from zero rpm, electric power can deliver an immediate, thrilling driving experience," he said. "Our intention is to demonstrate drivability, performance and refinement that comfortably meets the expectations of Morgan's most discerning customers, with an easily-implementable technical solution designed to world-class standards."
Zytek's first experience with a high-performance electric sportscar was in 1997 when it converted a Lotus Elise to electric drive. The award-winning design led to engineering programmes with Chrysler and General Motors, closely followed by a long-term relationship with Daimler to develop and build electric powertrains for the smart fortwo ed (electric drive). In motorsport, Zytek was the first company to race a hybrid at Le Mans and supplied technology for the first KERS-equipped Formula 1 car to win a grand prix.
The Niche Vehicle R&D Programme provides support and grant funding for groups of companies throughout the UK that are active in the niche vehicle sector. The programme is funded by Advantage West Midlands and the Technology Strategy Board. Managed by CENEX, it promotes the development and application of new technology to take advantage of the increasing market opportunities for lower carbon vehicles. The Morgan Motor Company has been manufacturing distinctive motor cars since 1909. Today, the company's range combines the best of traditional elegance and craftsmanship with the latest light-weight construction techniques and a choice of high-efficiency engines that offer everything from economical daily motoring to outstanding supercar performance.
Radshape is one of the UK's leading specialist manufactures of high-precision sheet metal components and assemblies. Combining traditional craftsmanship with substantial investments in the latest production technologies allows the company to work across a wide range of low to medium volume programmes. Radshape has worked with Morgan on the design, development and production of aluminium chassis structures for more than 12 years.
Zytek Automotive has designed and integrated electric drive systems for a wide range of major European and US vehicle manufacturers. The company is currently building high performance electric drivetrains from 25kW -70kW and has drives of 100kW and more in development to meet growing demand for zero emissions light commercial vehicles and high-performance passenger cars. Their UK facility can integrate up to 6,000 E drives a year in batches as low as 100, providing vehicle manufacturers with a highly flexible specialist production resource for their low carbon vehicle programmes.