No Skateboards: EV firm thinks vertical car batteries are the future
EV manufacturers have largely landed on the skateboard chassis as the preferred way of integrating a battery into an electric vehicle – sometimes, they even make it the electric vehicle. Such platforms drop the weight down low and pull bulk out of the passenger and cargo compartments. British EV design firm Page-Roberts believes it's found a more efficient way, claiming its vertically stacked battery design can boost driving range by 30 percent. Is its seat-splitting battery wall the future of electric vehicles?
"The skateboard arrangement has become the mainstay of most EVs. But this results in taller vehicles with increased aerodynamic losses and energy consumption (especially at motorway speeds), extra structure required to protect against impact, and a longer wheelbase to account for the battery," explains CEO Freddy Page-Roberts. "The increased size and weight dramatically inhibit range."
Like many a teen and young adult has done, Page-Roberts, the man and the company, leaves the skateboard behind in stepping toward the future. Its design concept puts a vertical battery stack in a torsion box arrangement at the center of a small hatchback, splitting the two rows of seating. The battery looks to be roughly half the height of the vehicle, and to prevent it interfering with rear-passenger legroom, or generally being an eyesore, Page-Roberts rotates the rear seats around to face backward. The battery pack is angled to better fit between reclined seats.
This vertical arrangement allows Page-Roberts to shorten the wheelbase and drop the vehicle height, adjustments that invite a more aerodynamic body design. The company also claims the positioning reduces exposure to impact, saving roughly 77 to 165 lb (35 to 75 kg) worth of crash-structure materials. That structural lightening combines with the lowered height to cut weight by up to 220 lb (100 kg), the company estimates, extrapolating that the saved weight and improved aerodynamics could increase overall vehicle efficiency up to 30 percent, while also decreasing manufacturing costs.
Page-Roberts further believes that its battery placement offers other engineering advantages, explaining that the torsion box construction secures to the sides of the vehicle, increasing stiffness for improved safety and reducing vibrations for a smoother, quieter ride.
Page-Roberts admits that the configuration is best-suited to small four-seaters, emphasizing how it could help designers sculpt classic 2+2 GT proportions into low-riding sports cars. It seems much less useful in the always-expanding market of electric SUVs and small crossovers that look to maximize interior space and count on longer wheelbases as an advantage. Higher, not lower, heights are also preferable for the rugged pickup trucks and 4x4s that have started showing up all over the EV market.
Page-Roberts' alternative battery configuration is interesting, but we're not sure automakers will be knocking down its doors to get a hold of it. Besides raising the center of gravity, the central, occupant-splitting battery barricade disrupts the entire look and feel of the interior. And who wants to be forced to stare out the rear windshield the whole ride?
We think the skateboard still has some life left in it.