Automotive

ebuggy concept promises "unlimited range" for EVs

ebuggy concept promises "unlim...
The ebuggy project is developing range-extending battery trailers, that could be towed behind electric vehicles on long highway trips
The ebuggy project is developing range-extending battery trailers, that could be towed behind electric vehicles on long highway trips
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Some of the ebuggy team with one of their trailers
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Some of the ebuggy team with one of their trailers
A rendering of a proposed ebuggy exchange station
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A rendering of a proposed ebuggy exchange station
The prototype ebuggy range-extending trailer
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The prototype ebuggy range-extending trailer
Users could swap out ebuggies running low on power while en route
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Users could swap out ebuggies running low on power while en route
The ebuggy project is developing range-extending battery trailers, that could be towed behind electric vehicles on long highway trips
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The ebuggy project is developing range-extending battery trailers, that could be towed behind electric vehicles on long highway trips

Until there’s some huge revolution in battery technology, electric vehicles are destined to remain as urban runabouts, never going out on long highway trips ... right? Well, not if Germany’s ebuggy project has anything to say about it. The group is developing little range-extending battery trailers that could be towed behind electric cars, providing power to the vehicles on longer trips. When a user’s trailer started getting low on juice, they could just pull over at a roadside exchange station and swap it for one that was fully charged.

In more detail, the plan is that users would start by hitching an ebuggy to their car when leaving their home city. They would pick that trailer up at an exchange station, on their way out of town. It would only take about two minutes to hitch up and plug into their vehicle’s electrical system. They could then swap it out if needed while en route, depositing the final ebuggy at a station outside of their destination city. For driving within either city, they would just use their car’s existing battery.

Users would pay for the trailers on a per-use basis, via an ebuggy card which they would receive when signing up for the service. Fees would be automatically calculated and billed, and would reportedly “always be lower than driving a gas or diesel car.” Those users would also initially have to get an ebuggy kit installed on their vehicle, which would include a standard trailer hitch, a power socket, and a dashboard user interface.

Users could swap out ebuggies running low on power while en route
Users could swap out ebuggies running low on power while en route

A prototype trailer has been built and tested, thanks to the involvement of Germany’s Ministry of Economics and Technology, and project partners including the Fraunhofer Institut IPA and Stuttgart University. That prototype is claimed to work perfectly – its battery capacity hasn’t been stated. The group is now optimizing the design for large-scale production, and is looking into establishing a network of the exchange stations across Germany and ultimately in other countries.

While the system may indeed make long-distance EV travel possible, it could conceivably also cause electric vehicles to become more affordable. “ebuggy allows the automotive industry to build reasonably priced electric vehicles with a smaller battery, because ebuggy is available for longer distances,” said the group’s managing director, Dr. Manfred Baumgärtner. “As a result, electric cars will become cheaper than vehicles with a combustion engine and e-mobility will be able to assert itself rapidly and dynamically.”

Should the ebuggy system become a commercial reality, it may have some competition. Germany’s Rinspeed is developing a similar concept, Dock+Go, in which two-wheeled range-extending modules are actually attached to the back of an existing EV – essentially temporarily turning it into a six-wheeled car.

The ebuggy prototype can be seen in use in the video below.

Source: ebuggy

24 comments
Max Kennedy
For quite long trips a gas/diesel generator would currently be a better option giving longer range and utilizing the current infrastructure. Battery trailers would be good for moderate trips but not long trips with current technology.
K5ING
"Long trip" in Europe is different than "long trip" in the US. A long trip here could be 2K or 3K miles with lots of nothing between buggy locations. I'm with you that a diesel genset would make more sense here.
Adrien
Sorry, but I predict doom and failure for this idea. Firstly, no-one can drive with a trailer attached. Backing, parking, going round corners, changing lanes on the freeway are just going to result in a lot of accidents. Secondly, the added weight of dragging that thing around is going to kill your efficiency.
Daishi
This is actually a really good idea. People that own electric cars own them as second vehicles only and something like this would enable them to be used as a primary vehicle because it would extend their range. One of the biggest problems with using an electric car on long drives isn't just their shorter range but because they can't quickly be refueled. Being able to replace the main battery pack in the vehicle requires a bunch of difficult problems to be solved first but this would be compatible with anything. and @Max, if you owned only an EV and needed to take it somewhere where only gasoline would be available you could always trailer a gas/diesel generator the same way. It seems kind of stupid to trailer a gas powered generator behind an EV but the point is you would only need to do this a couple times a year (like on a camping trip or something) and you would still be EV only the rest of the year.
Rt1583
Why not set up the trailer as a generator, driven by the trailers tires, that could provide a continous flow of energy to the prime mover while travelling at highway speeds? Could also be made so that the trailer would go into neutral at lower speeds with the energy provided by the battery pack in the prime mover (in and around town situations). I'm not an engineer of such things so there may be something fundamentally wrong with the idea but it seems this would be easier to implement than an infrastructure to provide trailer replacement support with sufficient saturation to where people would feel comfortable making long trips with an all electric car.
Ian McIntosh
Why not just fit cars with a replaceable battery pack like a forklift?
Slowburn
Better than the Dock Go but still not as good as an ICE driven vehicle. If I am going to deal with the hassles of pulling a trailer I want more than a gas tank. And what's with that wing?
kufu
You're basically proposing a perpetual motion machine -- or free energy. It doesn't work that way. You can't get more energy out of the moving wheels than the energy you put in to move the wheels.
Adrien
@Rt1583 the fundamental problem with your idea is that where does the energy come from that is driving the wheels of the trailer? On the flat etc, it comes from the car.... so you'd just be using the car battery to charge the trailer battery via the generator / wheels / road / wheels / engine. If it only worked as a brake (e.g. hooked up to your brake system) as an energy recovery system, that would be different, but these are generally built into the car anyway.
MC
So that's "unlimited range" as long as you stop to refuel every now and then? I'm no expert but I'm fairly certain my non-electric car works in a similar way.