Magna’s Plug-and-Play Electric Vehicle

By · March 03, 2009

Magna Steyr, the European arm of auto supplier Magna International, unveiled its Mila EV (electric vehicle) concept car this week at the Geneva International Motor Show. The company is not planning to put the Mila EV directly on the market—instead, it hopes that global automakers will use the ground-up design as a head start for brand new electric cars. Think of it as a plug-and-play EV for carmakers.

Magna Mila EV

Magna Steyr's Mila EV concept.

“At the moment, the main problem of electric vehicles is that the components and the production are very expensive,” said Harald Reichmann, Magna Steyr’s manager of corporate communications, in an interview with HybridCars.com. “The great benefit of our concept is the novel platform that guarantees a common utilization by a variety of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and/or for different drive versions. This means higher production runs and thus lower costs.”

Ford was the first company to announce a partnership with Magna to produce an electric vehicle—although the Mila EV was not the basis for Ford’s project. Nonetheless, the yet-to-be-named Ford model will be about the same size as the Mila EV. Ford said it will retain responsibility for everything except the electric drivetrain—while Magna will contribute the electric motor and transmission, its battery pack and charger, motor controller, and related systems, and will help integrate the whole package. Ford is also teaming up with UK’s Smith Electric Vehicles to produce an electric commercial van.

Ford has been using the Focus platform as a mule for testing its small electric car. In Geneva, Ford unveiled the iosis Max concept—a multi-purpose vehicle platform—that has dimensions similar to the Mila EV (and could be a platform for its electric car).

Ford iosis Max concept />

Ford's iosis Max concept.

Magna's front-drive Mila EV will use the company's own lithium ion battery pack to power a 67-horsepower electric motor. The lithium batteries begin production next year. The Mila’s 98-inch wheelbase is about four inches shorter than a Ford Focus, while its 157-inch overall length is significantly shorter.

The shorter body will help reduce the weight of the vehicle to reduce the load on the electric motor. The Mila EV claims a range of about 100 miles, with a charging time of 2.5 hours (at 400V).

In its pitch at the auto show, Magna Steyr indicated it has permission from Ford to sell the components to other manufacturers and is actively seeking partnerships to increase volume and drive down costs.

While Magna Steyr hopes that carmakers will be interested in the Mila EV design, the company expects that each carmaker will modify the vehicle’s appearance to suit its own goals. “The big advantage of our concept is that our platform offers full flexibility and adaptability to their strategies, needs and designs,” said Reichman.

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