Whether flashing down the highway or wending my way through Taipei's notoriously chaotic rush-hour traffic, I was duly impressed by Luxgen's battery-electric MPV. Quick, luxurious, and bristling with electronic technology, I was astonished at how well this car has been developed.
Acceleration from this seven-passenger minivan can only be described as brisk. Though I wasn't able to do any kind of timed runs, my seat-of-the-pants reaction is that it sure feels faster than a Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf. And with its aggressive re-gen, I was pretty much able to drive in stop and go traffic without using the brakes. That sure makes traffic jams a whole lot easier to take.
The only thing that detracted from my test drive was an annoying whine in the drivetrain, which my Luxgen hosts said was due to an issue that they're working on with the transmission. They assured me that noise would be gone before the vehicle goes on sale. I have no reason to doubt them.
You're forgiven if you've never heard of Luxgen before. Seems like few people know of it, even though Autoblog (and just about nobody else) dutifully reported on the brand's debut last year. Part of the reason for Luxgen's anonymity is that it's a start-up from Taiwan. Even so, this little company could soon make a big splash in the automotive world.
Luxgen has an SUV and MPV with gasoline engines that are already on sale in Taiwan. Next year, its Neora 4-door sedan, which debuted at the 2011 Shanghai Motor Show, will hit the showrooms. It also has a smaller hatchback coming sometime after that.
Importantly, Luxgen has done something that so far no other automaker has attempted. Each and every one of the vehicles it sells was designed from scratch to take an internal combustion engine, or a plug-in hybrid powertrain, or a battery-electric pack.
In other words, with next to no modifications it can flex production from ICE to PHEV to BEV to meet consumer demand. And by offering alternative powertrains across its entire product line it could achieve economies-of-scale faster than special-built hybrids or electric vehicles.
Luxgen uses a 150-kW AC motor that produces the equivalent of 201 horsepower with and 162 pound-feet of torque, coupled to a lithium-ion battery pack. For comparison, the Volt uses a 111-kW motor, the Leaf 80 kW. The company worked with AC Propulsion of California to develop this technology. So far, we don't know a whole lot more than that. Luxgen isn't divulging more details for now.
The same goes for performance figures; not a lot to go on. Luxgen says its electric MPV will travel farther on a full charge than a Leaf even though it's a bigger and faster vehicle. But we don't know what driving cycle that claim is based on. No word yet on price, either.
Most impressively, Luxgen's models are tastefully styled, the fit and finish and build quality are first rate, and the use of interior materials is superb. Its 10-inch nav screen is the biggest in the business and features crystal clear graphics. It also offers a heads-up display, and a night vision system that does not rely on infra-red. Clearly, Luxgen is mining Taiwan's famous electronics industry for leading-edge technology.
Luxgen is a subsidiary of the Yulon Group, a Taiwanese conglomerate comprising 88 other companies that are involved in everything from textiles to electronics to automotive. The name comes from combining the words Luxury and Genius. It may not be the catchiest name, but don't let names fool you. This company is for real.
Recently, Luxgen signed an agreement with Chinese company Dongfeng to manufacture its vehicles on the mainland. That ought to put the rest of the automotive world on notice.
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