The Concept of an (EV) Electric Vehicle Convertibles
Introduction of Electric Vehicle Convertibles
The concept of an electric vehicle (EV) convertible combines the excitement and freedom of open-air driving with the sustainability and instant torque of an electric powertrain. However, there is currently a distinct lack of electric vehicle convertibles options available on the market.
Safety concerns, engineering challenges, higher costs, and uncertainty around market demand have limited automakers from expanding into
EV convertibles. The additional weight and placement of heavy battery packs affects the vehicle center of gravity and rollover risk, especially in open-top models. Meeting regulatory standards also poses design barriers.
While recent years have seen dozens of new EV sedans, SUVs and crossover models, convertible options have yet to transition to electric. This guide will explore the history, regulations, safety considerations, market trends and future feasibility of electric convertible vehicles.
History of Electric Convertibles
Although electric convertibles are scarce today, there have been some early open-top EV models that showed the potential of combining wind-in-your-hair freedom with sustainable electric powertrains.
A. Past Open-Top EV Models
The original Tesla Roadster launched in 2008 as the first serial production all-electric convertible sports car. The 2-seater EV convertible could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds and travel up to 244 miles on a single charge. Tesla produced around 2,500 Roadster convertibles before discontinuing it in 2012.
Another early adopter was the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabrio, introduced in 2017 as a compact 2-seat EV convertible. The diminutive city car could reach top speeds of 60 mph and charge to 80% in under 45 minutes. However, it was discontinued in 2019 amid declining sales.
While these initial attempts sparked interest, the lack of further investment indicates automakers have not seen high enough demand for electric convertibles to justify the increased engineering costs and safety considerations.
Safety Considerations for Electric Convertibles
Developing an electric convertible poses unique safety challenges compared to standard EV sedans and crossovers.
A. Added Weight Considerations
The battery pack of an EV is its heaviest component. In convertibles, mounting weight higher and rearwards can raise the center of gravity and affect rollover risk.
Packaging smaller batteries to fit an open-top body style may reduce range. Automakers must balance range anxiety concerns with weight distribution impacts.
B. Battery Placement Factors
The ideal location for EV battery packs is low, centered, and integrated structurally into the vehicle floor plan. However, convertibles lack fixed roof structures to mount batteries.
Engineers must get creative on battery placement while retaining passenger and trunk space in convertibles. Batteries may need to infringe on interior room or be divided into sections.
C. Rollover Risks and Impact Protection
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) require vehicles to maintain structural integrity during single-vehicle rollover crashes. Convertibles are exempt but still pose safety concerns, especially in higher-weight EVs.
Open-top design also necessitates reinforced windshield frames, door sills, and other reinforced structures in the event of a crash when the soft top is down.
IV. Current Electric Convertible Models and Concepts
Despite the challenges, some automakers are beginning to envision electric convertible offerings to tap into consumer demand for sustainable open-air driving. However, vehicles actually making it to production remain elusive.
- A. Lack of Production Electric Convertibles
As of 2023, no major automaker currently offers a serial production all-electric convertible model. Many have announced plans for new EV sedans, crossovers, and SUVs, but none have committed to a dedicated electric drop-top.
- B. Volkswagen’s Considerations
In 2022, Volkswagen Product Chief Jozef Kabaň expressed interest in developing an electric convertible version of VW’s ID.3 hatchback. However, the company has made no formal announcements, citing uncertainty around demand and development costs.
- C. EV Convertible Concept Cars
While lacking production plans, brands like Bentley, Nissan, and Mini have showcased electric convertible concept cars at recent auto shows.
These demonstrate that automakers recognize consumer interest in sustainable drop-tops. However, concept cars often never progress to production due to limitations on practicality.
V. Regulations Around Roof Crush Resistance
For vehicles with fixed roofs, federal regulations impose minimum standards for roof strength to withstand crushing force in a rollover. However, convertibles face fewer regulatory barriers to design.
- A. NHTSA Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 216
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Standard 216 sets minimum requirements for vehicle roof strength by applying pressure to one corner until reaching a specific degree of deformation.
- B. Exemption for Convertible Models
Since convertibles lack fixed roofs, Standard 216 specifications explicitly exempt convertible models from meeting defined roof crush resistance criteria.
- C. Challenges Building Temporary Roofs
Some convertibles feature retractable hardtops or temporary shelter roofs rather than soft tops. But engineering supportive temporary roofs with metal or glass panels remains challenging and expensive.
The lack of fixed federal roof strength standards grants automakers more flexibility in designing convertible body styles. However, they must still prioritize occupant protection in other ways.
VI. Automaker Attitudes Towards Electric Convertibles
Major automakers have so far been cautious around announcing plans for electric convertibles. However, some remain optimistic about catering to consumer demand for performance-oriented open-top models.
- A. General Motors Commitment
General Motors executives stated in 2021 that they remain committed to retaining open-air driving where possible as models shift toward electrification. The company is focusing first on SUVs and pickup trucks however.
- B. Potential for Electric Corvettes
Chevrolet is working on electrified versions of its iconic Corvette sports car. Trademark filings for the name “eRay” suggest hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants could arrive to blend electrification with convertible appeal.
- C. Jeep Retractable Soft Tops
Jeep currently offers retractable soft tops on its Wrangler and Gladiator models rather than fixed roofs. This shows some brands still cater to convertible driving experiences. Jeep is planning electrified variants but not full EVs.
While optimistic about open-air options, most automakers are taking a cautious approach to electric convertibles until battery cost and safety concerns are addressed. Sports car brands seem most eager to tap into performance car consumer demand.
VII. Safety Expert Opinions on Electric Convertibles
Safety researchers have weighed in on the unique considerations for protecting occupants in open-top electric vehicles based on handling, crash testing and center of gravity insights.
- A. Weight Distribution Factors
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has raised concerns about the placement of heavy battery packs raising an EV’s center of gravity, affecting rollover propensity.
Careful weight distribution in the floor plan and structural reinforcements are important for crash safety. Lower centers of gravity can potentially improve handling.
- B. Insurance Industry Perspectives
Insurance industry researchers anticipate that in the event of crashes, repair costs could run higher for electric convertible models versus standard EV sedans based on potential sensor, battery and structural damage.
- C. Benefits of Low Centers of Gravity
However, Consumer Reports notes that the low-slung battery design of most EVs can lower rollover risks. Their handling tests suggest EVs corner better with less body lean even without convertible-specific engineering.
There are mixed opinions on the inherent safety attributes of electric vehicles with respect to low or high centers of gravity in open-top body styles. Further real-world testing would offer more definitive insights.
IX. Future Outlook and Feasibility of Electric Convertibles
What is the overall future viability of all-electric convertible vehicles as automakers transition toward EVs? There are still substantial barriers but also potential for innovation.
- A. Assessment of Practicality
The added engineering costs, battery packaging issues, safety considerations, higher prices, and uncertainty over market size pose pragmatic challenges to developing a production electric convertible model.
- B. Potential Innovations
However, as battery costs decline and production scales up, equipping convertibles with electric powertrains could become more feasible.
Advances in battery chemistry, charging speed, modular structural platforms, and even integrating solar roof panels could expand possibilities.
- C. Consumer Appetite
Demand trends for performance vehicles and sustainable options suggest there exists a demographics of enthusiastic early adopters willing to pay more for an exciting electric convertible.
Mainstream demand would depend on achieving parity with gas-powered convertible pricing and range. But niche sustainability-focused markets show promise.
Crafting Your Individualized Electric Vehicle A Comprehensive Guide
In the quest for sustainable mobility solutions, embarking on the creation of your electric car becomes a rewarding and ecologically conscious endeavor. Here at [Your Company Name], our commitment remains steadfast in providing you with an exhaustive manual to construct your electric vehicle, ensuring you possess all the necessary information to embark on this captivating journey.
Essential Components and Tools
- Choosing the Right Elements
Opting for top-tier components becomes crucial for the success of your electric car project. We strongly recommend selecting reliable battery units, proficient electric propulsion systems, and durable structural materials. Below is an elucidation of the indispensable elements:
Stepwise Construction Methodology
1. Visualizing Your Blueprint
Before diving into the actual assembly, create a detailed blueprint outlining the specifics of your electric vehicle. Contemplate aspects like aerodynamics, mass distribution, and safety protocols. This systematic planning ensures a seamless construction process.
2. Constructing the Framework
Building a sturdy framework forms the foundation of your electric car. Combining a steel frame imparts strength and stability. Ensure precise dimensions and secure connections for optimal performance and safety.
3. Installing the Electric Propulsion System
Carefully attach the chosen electric propulsion system to the framework. Establish a connection with the transmission apparatus, ensuring exact alignment. The prudent installation of an electric propulsion system is crucial for achieving efficiency in your vehicle’s operation.
4. Integration of Power Units
Strategically incorporate the chosen power units within the framework. This phase requires meticulous wiring to connect the power units in a series or parallel configuration, depending on your chosen power arrangement.
5. Electrical Networks and Governing Systems
Devise a robust electrical network to interconnect the propulsion system, power units, and control hubs. Implement safety features such as circuit disruptors and emergency shutdown switches. Rigorously assess the electrical setup to ensure optimal functionality.
Evaluation and Enhancement
- Initial Trial Expeditions
Before hitting the road, conduct comprehensive trial expeditions in a controlled environment. Address any anomalies that may arise during testing, optimizing the efficiency of your electric vehicle.
- Precision Adjustments for Optimal Performance
Improve the efficiency of your electric car through meticulous adjustments to the propulsion system controller settings and power management structure. Be vigilant about energy utilization and make alterations to amplify the vehicle’s range.
Conclusion: The Outlook for Electric Convertibles
In summary, developing commercially viable all-electric convertibles presents sizable technical and economic challenges for automakers in the near future. Key factors limiting options include:
- Safety considerations with weight placement and rollover protection
- Battery packaging difficulties in open-top vehicles
- Regulatory compliance for temporary roof components
- Uncertainty regarding potential mainstream consumer demand
However, the concept integrating exciting performance and handling with sustainable electric power holds growing appeal for many drivers. As battery densities improve, costs decline, and automakers overcome engineering barriers, EV convertibles could carve out niche market share given the right combination of:
- Appealing, supercar-inspired styling and branding
- 300+ mile real-world range between charges
- Fast charging capability for long trips
- Parity with gas convertible pricing through economies of scale
The path forward remains complicated for electric vehicle convertibles to reach production viability and mass-market adoption. But for the thrilled, sustainable-focused driver, the possibilities spark excitement. Automakers should watch early enthusiast demand trends closely to gauge if the investment in clever engineering and design could power this new drop-top segment.
FAQs on Electric Vehicle Convertibles:
1. Are there any electric convertibles I can actually buy today?
Unfortunately no major automaker currently offers an all-electric convertible model for sale. A few boutique custom shops have built and converted individual vehicles over the years. But there are no serial production EV convertibles available at dealerships in 2023.
2. How much range could I reasonably expect from an electric convertible?
Early EV convertibles like the Tesla Roadster could achieve around 245 miles on a charge. As battery densities continue improving, we could expect driving ranges between 250-400 miles for future electric convertibles depending on battery size and body design.
3. Would an electric convertible model be more expensive than regular EVs?
Most likely yes – specialty open-top vehicles demand premium pricing and require more complex engineering. But as production scales up, costs could normalize. Targeting under $50,000 for a new mid-range electric convertible could attract more mainstream buyers.
4. Would I have to sacrifice performance in an electric convertible?
Not at all – instant torque from standstill means properly engineered electric convertibles could offer incredible acceleration surpassing most gas models. Quicker reactions and a balanced low center of gravity from the floor-mounted battery can enhance cornering and response for a thrilling drive.
5. What companies are closest to releasing one?
Tesla revived plans for its next-gen Roadster convertible. Volkswagen suggested it’s exploring an electric convertible variant of the ID.3 hatchback. Mini, Nissan and others also displayed concepts. While none have production timelines, these manufacturers seem most intent on gauging interest.