Tag Archives: remy motors

AMP Electric Vehicles and Remy Make It Official

AMP CEO signs contract with Jay Pittas of Remy

It was already well known that Remy will be supplying AMP with electric motors and controllers for their electric car conversions.  But on August 10, 2010, Jay Pittas, the President of Remy and Steve Burns of AMP sat down in Pendleton, IN to sign an official three year contract to supply electric motors for Amp’s Electric Equinox.

I was lucky enough to be present at the event, which proved to be as informative as it was entertaining.

Remy’s headquarters is located about 20 minutes north of Indianapolis, IN, situated among acres of corn fields and your typical Indiana rural scenery.  Once you turn the corner around a wooded area, a massive parking lot opens up and you see pretty much what you expect a midwest corporate headquarters to look like: an expansive 4 story concrete structure.  I was the first media there, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  Perhaps I got the scoop on the local media, or Indiana really doesn’t care much for electric vehicles yet.  The first arrivals were herded to the board room, and I schmoozed as much as I could with energy consultants and publicity firm employees. Eventually, the AMP team showed up, fresh off of their performance at the Automotive X Prize competition, where they reached the finals.  Finally, some local reporters and media outlets arrived with the big cameras and we were ready to begin the ceremony.

Jay Pittas of Remy started the formalities.  Solidifying his belief in the AMP Equinox because, “A mother can actually take a couple kids to a soccer game, and it would be a practical vehicle.”  Steve Burns then stated the importance of the motor as the “heart and soul” of the electric vehicle because an inefficient one can kill the battery life. Steve reiterated how grateful he was to find such a cheap motor, then corrected himself, describing it as inexpensive, to laughs from the crowd.  Overall, the two executives were very happy with the deal, and the two signed the contracts.  One Remy employee wisecracked about how Pittas should not forget to move a decimal place over on the price.

Next we were encouraged to come downstairs to the entrance for interviews with the employees and to test drive the AMP Equinox and the AMP Sky that were driven at the Progressive Automotive X Prize.

I got to talk to various AMP employees including the CEO, Steve Burns.  They have already delivered a few cars to early customers.  Several fleet owners have asked to purchase more conversion vehicles than AMP can put out right now.  It sounds like the general consensus is that they are more than happy to continue retrofitting American vehicles, and they have no plans of manufacturing an original electric car yet.  Research and development for electric vehicles is an arduous and expensive process.  AMP bypasses this by retrofitting tried and tested, select American cars.

The AMP electric car conversion process is very simple.  You can reserve your AMP, Equinox, or Solstice at AMPElectricVehicles.com.  They purchase the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicle, take out the old parts, and install the electric drive-train, which has already been measured and weighed so that it doesn’t alter the original safety and handling specifications.  It is pretty much a bolt-in operation, and the components fit right into place on the select vehicles, so you cannot just ask them to electrify your ’86 Camaro.  If someone were to purchase one of AMP’s vehicles today, Burns says the car would be converted and ready in about a month.

Steve Burns and other employees all noted how receiving empty shells or “gliders” from GM would drastically reduce the price of the vehicles.  Not only would they not have to buy the original ICE drivetrain, but it would reduce assembly time. Burns said using glider donors could reduce the price of the AMP Equinox from $50,000 to somewhere in the $30,000 range.  So you would be getting a full size electric SUV for around the same price as the compact Nissan Leaf.  The Equinox would also have a greater electric range than the Leaf.  The problem is getting companies like GM to agree to selling these empty shells.

The electric vehicle industry has always had a stark divide between the small and willing, and the behemoth car manufacturers that do not lend themselves to change.  Hopefully, more American companies like AMP and Remy can create powerful partnerships to give the people a choice in the way they drive.

Next Post: I get to drive the Equinox, then I go for a wild ride in the Amp Sky (0-60 in 6 seconds).

NY Auto Show: Notes from the EV Press Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the EV Press Conference on the second press day of the 2010 New York Auto Show.  The event was right after Mitsubishi’s press conference, filled with loud indie rock, light shows, and the big reveal of their new crossover.  The EV press event was much more low key, and really a sequence of rapid fire, five minute speeches from five EV companies.  Amp Electric Vehicles, Mini, Mitsubishi, Think, and PEP Stations all gave a quick rundown of their vehicles, goals, and innovations.

First up was Steve Burns, CEO of Amp Electric Vehicles.  Amp does high quality conversions of domestic ICE vehicles to 100% electric drive.  The Midwestern team is currently converting the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox as well as 2007-2009 Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice convertibles.  They brought a converted Sky and Equinox, which were definitely the sexiest looking electric cars driving around at the show.

Amp Sky in front of the Amp Equinox
Amp Sky in front of the Amp Equinox

Anyways, Steve Burns focused on the Equinox, a SUV that truly shows that electric vehicles are just as capable as their internal combustion predecessors. The Amp Equinox crossover has a 150 mile range, 90 mile per hour top speed, and a 0-60 mph acceleration of 8 seconds. Burns attributed this exceptional performance to the Remy electric motor. Remy has made over a billion motors of all sorts around the world, and they are bringing their legacy to the electric drivetrain. It is exciting to see established internal combustion companies adapt and apply their expertise to electric drive applications. The Amp presenters suspiciously omitted the price of their Equinox, so I’ll include it here: $50,000, more than twice the price of a 2010 Chevy Equinox.

Next up, a BMW spokesman gave a short presentation for the Mini E.  He briefed us on the specs for the highway capable EV with a 100 mile range, and “go kart-like handling.”  The Mini E is already being leased to select drivers, and he announced they have extended the lease for another year, with over 50% of the leasers renewing.  More interestingly, he noted BMW’s Project i.  Which will catalyze more applications of electric drive trains in BMW vehicles, like the 1 Series coupe.  They already revealed the BMW ActiveE concept at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show.  The ActiveE will pack a 170 horsepower electric motor in a 1 Series, to give it similar specs to the Mini E, but lets hope they give us some trunk space.

Product Planning Manager, Brian Arnett gave us the rundown on their plans for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.  Sounds like they are pretty far along already in the east, with 1,400 cars sold to Japanese fleets.  The 80 mile range highway capable EV will retail in Japan this month.  Mitsubishi hopes to introduce the the i-MiEV to the US in Fall 2011.  They are already creating partnerships with companies in the US, like Best Buy (Geek Squad cars), and California Electric (for EV infrastructure).

John Harmon represented Think North America next.  The company plans to begin manufacturing the THINK City in Elkhart, Ind. beginning in early 2011.  The Think City will have a range of 100 miles, and a top speed of 70 mph.  The two seater also has a large cargo area in its recently redesigned rear.

Finally, Brady Blaine, Vice President of Pep Stations, elaborated on their goal to supply America with an electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  This is obviously easier said than done, but the premise is simple.  PEP (Plug-in Electric Power) has designed a simple charging station they hope to sell to malls, rest centers, gyms, and everywhere else people park their cars.  Patrons can park their electric cars, charge up in 1 to 5 hours, and drive away with a full battery.

In summary, the EV press conference characterized how the electric vehicle industry is slowly making its way to the mainstream.  Cars like the i-MiEV, Think City, and Nissan Leaf are practically designed, have ample cargo space, and have more than enough range for 90% of Americans.  These cars will be on our roads, in our showrooms, and charging in our garages within the next year.  The concept cars of two years ago are finally becoming a reality, and I was thankful to see and drive them at the 2010 New York Auto Show.