Lead-acid battery technology is outdated. It simply has no place in today's plug-in vehicles. Or does it?
South Africa's Automotive component manufacturer Metair set out on a mission to prove to the world that lead-acid, though heavy, is still a feasible solution for plug-in vehicles and, though its Met-Elec-R60 is downright hideous, Metair met proved it point and met its goal.
On Thursday, Metair unveiled the homebuilt Met-Elec-R60 extended-range electric vehicle. The aim of this internal project, launched in July 2012, was to develop and produce a plug-in vehicle with a materials cost of less than R 60,000 ($6,473 US). That figure includes all of the components needed to convert the donor vehicle over to an extended-range electric.
Obviously, with that budget in mind, lithium-ion battery technology was out of the question. But lead-acid would work. As managing director of First National Battery, Dr. Louis Denner, explains:
"It is a known fact that lithium-ion battery technology is the power source of choice for electrical vehicles, but using lead-acid battery technology with a range extension option is a viable, more economical alternative."
Interestingly, the Met-Elec-R60 was never meant to become a commercially available vehicle. It was more or less a fun project that employees at Metair created during downtime in their work schedules. As Metair CEO Theo Loock says:
"The Met-Elec-R60 project is a great success. We did not do it to exploit commercial opportunities. We achieved all our goals within a precise time period and without impacting on any employee’s day-to-day responsibilities. Management and associates from across the group worked together to design and build the vehicles using different and complementary technologies, housed across a number of our subsidiary companies."
Though we don't have actual specs on the Met-Elec-R60, Loock claims that this vehicle easily proves that with lead-acid technology, an extended-range electric vehicle can be built to near lithium-ion capabilities, but for a fraction of the price. Furthermore, the worldwide availability of lead-acid batteries means that almost any nation around the globe could build such a vehicle within its own country.
Homegrown transport solutions. That's an idea we should all see value in.