The Visio.M urban electric vehicle, launched last year by BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, is on the road. Well, test site roads anyway, where a prototype of the lightweight EV is being evaluated near Munich.

The car uses carbon fiber and other composite materials to provide what Visio.M's partners say is "the best of both worlds." That means materials that can make a car light enough to minimize electric-power needs but safe enough to drive around the city streets. An anti-lock braking system, specially designed seatbelts and a drivetrain system that cuts weight by about 15 percent are among the car's advancements.

Last spring, BMW and Daimler launched the Visio.M urban EV project with the help of German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), which provided about $14 million in startup funding. The goal was to develop EVs whose power maxed out at about 20 horsepower and which tipped the scales at less than 1,000 pounds. Check out Visio's press release below.



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Visio.M project: Carbon fiber lightweight design for electric car

Light yet safe contender for city streets

Can an electric vehicle be extremely light and safe at the same time? Researchers working on the Visio.M project aim to show that the answer is yes. Scientists as well engineers from Germany's leading technology companies have teamed up to develop a Visionary Mobility concept car to meet tomorrow's electromobility needs. They have chosen a sturdy monocoque body, state-of-the-art carbon fiber materials and a lightweight engine and transmission system. A Visio.M research prototype has already successfully negotiated drive and chassis tests.

Up to now, it has been a case of "either/or." On the one hand, we have the typical ultra-compact, lightweight electric car, where designers have had to compromise on safety. With larger e-cars on the other hand, the heavier frames and crumple zones come at the expense of battery range. But now researchers as well as engineers from some of Germany's top technology firms are looking to create the best of both worlds. The aim of the Visio.M project is to develop a mobility concept for an efficient electric vehicle, making the design as light as possible while still delivering the best possible safety protection.

The Visio.M engineers decided in favor of an innovative monocoque body structure. Typically used in racing cars, a monocoque chassis combined with lightweight materials enables good stability while keeping overall weight to a minimum.

Innovative materials
The developers are also breaking new ground in their choice of ultra-lightweight materials for the structure: The passenger compartment will be made of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic. Composite materials of this type are already used in the manufacture of aircraft and luxury sports cars. The downside is that they are extremely complex to produce and expensive as a result. So the Visio.M engineers intend to investigate the feasibility of carbon fiber materials in ultra-compact cars suitable for series production.

For the drive system, too, the Visio.M developers are looking to keep weight to an absolute minimum. The e-car they are designing will have an efficient and compact asynchronous electric engine. The transmission system will incorporate very light gears resting on hollow shafts. This would make the gears up to 15 percent lighter than conventional designs.

Safety first
The lightweight design innovations may be impressive, but driver and passenger safety is still the number one priority of the Visio.M project. The sturdy carbon fiber structure will incorporate various dedicated active and passive features addressing the specific safety challenges of an ultra-compact electric car. The ideas being investigated include specially adapted seatbelts as well as other innovative concepts to minimize potential injuries in the event of an accident. By the end of the project, the researchers hope that they will have achieved the maximum possible level of safety.

A research prototype vehicle has already passed some initial chassis tests. The Electronic Stability Program, i.e., the anti-lock braking system and the torque vectoring system, have been put through their paces at a test site near Munich – marking another successful step in the move to develop a safe electric vehicle.

About Visio.M
Participants in the Visio.M consortium are, in addition to the automotive companies BMW AG (lead manager) and Daimler AG, the Technische Universitaet Muenchen as a scientific partner, and Autoliv BV & Co. KG, the Federal Highway Research Institute (BAST), Continental Automotive GmbH, E.ON AG, Finepower GmbH, Hyve AG, IAV GmbH, InnoZ GmbH, Intermap Technologies GmbH, LION Smart GmbH, Neumayer Tekfor Holding GmbH, Siemens AG, Texas Instruments Germany GmbH and TÜV SÜD AG as industrial partners. The project is funded, with 10.8 million euros over two and a half years, within the framework of the program IKT 2020 and the research focus area "Key Technologies for Electromobility – STROM" of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 24 Comments
      Dave D
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Visio.M urban electric vehicle" LOL I keep hearing Bill Murray and Harold Ramis talking about their "EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle"!
      Spec
      • 1 Year Ago
      Get it to pass crash tests and I'm in. A small light-weight EV like that could get away with a pretty small battery and have a decent range.
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      GP: Its a consortium led by a University for research purposes and largely funded by Government, as the press release details. The set-up for production is entirely different.
      SublimeKnight
      • 1 Year Ago
      I was interested until: "The goal was to develop EVs whose power maxed out at about 20 horsepower" Did they leave off a zero?
      SprinterMatt
      • 1 Year Ago
      The CRX lives!
      Giza Plateau
      • 1 Year Ago
      How do you know this?
      EZEE
      • 1 Year Ago
      Performance is a relative thing. If it had 100 hp, and went 0-60 in 4.2 seconds, well, hurray! But 20 hp? I think anyone would give it a pat on the battery for simply cruising up to 70mph, regardless of the time. Think of it like a truck. One doesn't expect a truck to burn up the track, however, if it tows 10,000 kilo, then that is a measure of performance. 20hp, if this thing works, is truly a measure of what light weight, plus the torque of electric, can accomplish. Lets see 20hp of ICE move a car...
      bluepongo1
      • 1 Year Ago
      With due respect : 20 hp in article probably is electric horse power ( which translates to 160-200 ICE horse power) , :)
      EVnerdGene
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hey EZEE, Can you provide a Happy Dan analysis ?
        Giza Plateau
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        Perhaps I can help with that. The press release basically says nothing at all but if we assume the weight is truly 450kg or better as the article suggests, then Dan would certainly approve of that aspect. They will find a way to screw that up however. The second key element is aerodynamics. It's reasonably rounded off at the front, no stupid grills, wheel covers and the neck tapers down to let the air close behind it. It looks somewhat ok. The mirrors could be gone, the rear wheels could be covered and the surfaces could be smoother, too make protruding edges like the side window. And wipers up in the air. But seems good enough for approval if the rest is in order. The use of carbon is great only if they can do it at low cost. Otherwise it could be alu and fiberglass. The price could be a problem and that's part of the screw up. They will mess it up somehow and price is an obvious candidate. Not producing it is another. The look is not bad but could be better. It's clear from the design and the text that they still suffer from the illusion that an electric car is a weak little slow car only for city driving. That's a mistake. A super efficient EV can easily have high performance and long range so there are some big minuses for failing to take advantage of those opportunities. The article talks about 20horsepower. That's something you only do with electric drive if you are making the absolutely cheapest product you can make and that is a big mistake with EVs. A tiny motor in an EV can do 100 ponies in acceleration and that greatly increases the appeal of the car. The 38kg motor in the Tesla Roadster did 250 ponies. So is 15kg worth of motor not worth it if you can get porsche beating performance. Would you really save those decisive 10kg.. of course not. From what little we know so far, it could be very good. But odds are that they will find several ways to screw it up. 99.5% certain
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          Nah, you just haven't got EZEE's ability to get inside Dan's head! ;-)
          Actionable Mango
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Giza Plateau
          400 kg without batteries 544 kg including batteries 75 mph 62 mile range
      Giza Plateau
      • 1 Year Ago
      It says " BMW AG (lead manager)". It's not my impression that universities whip up a complete car and do iterations and do test drives with camera cars and camouflage. Also the car has distinct BMW i3 similarities. The 'innovative' carbon fiber chassis also has BMW written all over it. But seeing as BMW is very rooted in the archaic combustion engine and has a certain disdain for electric cars, it might be quite unlikely to ever see production in any meaningful sense.
      Giza Plateau
      • 1 Year Ago
      20 could be plenty to get around for that car. But it's just not performance and misses a huge opportunity for EVs to shine. Listen to the words of the Dan as if the word of God :)
      • 1 Year Ago
      side note that may explain some of the design decisions: The thing ist designed to fit into the biggest of the "light vehicle" regulatory car classes in the European Union ("L7e" -> max 400kg without battery, max 15kW / 21hp power. Conventionally used for Quads etc.). They're basically trying to find out how far they can push that envelope into a usable car.
        EVnerdGene
        • 1 Year Ago
        I was guessing that. Like the Ligier's in France? quadricycle/city car for the under-age, or people that have lost their license ? So no limit on the battery weight ? Do you have a link in English or Spanish or Japanese that describes the classes?
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