Karma L4 E-Flex Van would make a killer self-driving e-camper van
Beyond launching electrified cars of its own, Karma Automotive plans to sell its E-Flex electrified platform to other auto manufacturers looking to quickly bring electric models to market. The E-Flex will be available in various configurations to support a variety of vehicle styles, ranging from everyday utility models to hypercars. The first E-Flex launches under the 2020 Revero GT, now available for purchase in North America. The second is the L4 E-Flex Van, a wired-up chassis that supports a full-size van with Level 4 autonomy and battery electric drive power. It's a solution for utility vans, first and foremost, but could lead to a smarter, cleaner breed of camper van.
"What others have called a one-dimensional skateboard, we call our E-Flex Platform, a multi-use solution,” said Karma Automotive COO Kevin Pavlov in introducing the concept last week. “There are up to 22 different possible configurations available, covering various battery-packaging variants and different drive-motor systems."
On Thursday, Karma revealed the L4 E-Flex Van as the second of five primary E-Flex variants. The L4 stands for "Level 4," the second highest SAE level of autonomy that sees the vehicle capable of doing all the driving under specific conditions. The brain of Karma's next-gen autonomy is a Nvidia Drive AGX Pegasus computing platform with two Nvidia Xavier processors and two Tensor Core GPUs. The system is capable of performing 320 trillion operations every second.
Feeding that central AI computer is a hardware and software suite put together by L4 AI company WeRide. It includes a 360-degree field of view and precise, real-time localizations powered by an advanced sensor set that includes lidar, radar, camera, GNSS satellite navigation and inertial navigation.
The L4 van platform is configurable and scalable for different customer applications. It can be built as either a battery electric or range-extended hybrid with two or four electric drive motors. Those motors draw power from a flat or I-shaped battery pack wired to fast or bidirectional charging hardware.
The L4 E-Flex is designed with utility vans in mind, but it could certainly pave the way for a more leisurely breed of leisure vehicle, the kind that could help chauffeur travelers and adventurers to campgrounds and events. Earlier in the year, we looked at some evolutions RVs are likely to go through in the 2020s, and electric powertrains and more autonomy are chief among those.
Karma makes it easy to envision an L4 electric camper van by showing its E-Flex platform integrated into what looks like a Ram Promaster, a popular North American camper van choice on its own and the sibling of the even more popular European Fiat Ducato. We'd say a Level 4 range-extended electric with Promaster size could be a particularly attractive proposition for camper vans and small motorhomes. The range-extender engine would guarantee plenty of driving mileage for all kinds of trips and could double as a generator to maintain enough battery power for running onboard camper equipment like lights, fridge/freezer and water pump. Level 4 autonomy, meanwhile, could pull some of the hassle and fatigue out of the drive.
Karma intends to distribute its various E-Flex platforms to manufacturers looking to cut the massive costs associated with ground-up electric platform development. The E-Flex will allow those brands to get vehicles to market more quickly, at less cost. Karma plans to reveal additional iterations in the weeks ahead.
Source: Karma Automotive