The blueprint for future electric-vehicle platforms looked to have been set in stone at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Concepts unveiled by newcomer Faraday Future and by Volkswagen showed both firms are heading down the same path as Tesla: packaging batteries flat in a modular floorplan, allowing greater creativity in creating the body above.
VW’s nod to the Microbus ‘hippie van’ of old, badged Budd-e, and Faraday’s wild FFZERO1 were as far apart as two cars could be, but underneath the concept was the same: a flexible architecture with electric motors positioned on the front and rear axles.
Faraday reckons its platform could be extended or retracted, a bit like a dining table, to add or remove battery packs. This would allow them to put any number of body types on top, including – judging from an image briefly seen on a promotional video – a minivan/SUV.
VW calls its new platform the Modular Electric Drive Kit and says it’ll underpin a range of electric vehicles. With the batteries again packaged across the floor between the axles, VW believes this will offer a vast amount of space in the smallest possible footprint.
Tesla was among the first to production-ize this approach, sensibly using the freedom that comes from not having to incorporate an upright engine and associated emissions equipment in the usual places. This approach was used in the Model S and then Model X to free up space and keep weight low in the body.
The Faraday supercar concept used that spatial freedom differently. Instead of luggage space, it incorporated an aerodynamic tunnel through the body to reduce drag, increase power efficiency and boost top speed. It also claims the tunnels help cool the batteries and motors.
As advances in battery power density increases go, the freedom this new way of packaging allowed by electric vehicles is going to really let designers and engineers off the leash.
Who knows, we might even get to realizing the dream GM had back in 2002 when it unveiled the Hy-wire fuel-cell concept, with its powertrain packaged similarly flat in its ‘skateboard’ chassis. The body fixed on at 10 mounting points, and should you need a totally different type of car for the weekend, for example a minivan, you simply drove to the dealer and switched bodies.