Detroit Discovers EV-Motoring at 2009 Auto Show

Daimler AG/smart

Smart showed the European version of their eSmart for two in Detroit. No mention was made of Tesla batteries, but the Tesla press conference was held the day following Smart’s.

What Smart did say about the $50,000 eSmart; it’s powered by lithium ion cells, and that it would become available in Europe some time in 2009. We’re already aware of EV-motoring electrification programs in Berlin and several Italian cities, and Daimler has participated in these nascent efforts by loaning small fleets of eSmarts to organizations in these municipalities.

Smart’s Detroit press release did announce a relationship between Daimler and Evonik, a German battery manufacturer. The two giant companies will partner in a battery development firm called Li-Tec.


As expected, MINI showed their MINI E. As you may know, BMW is leasing MINI Es to 500 Americas in New York and Los Angeles for a monthly rate of $800. In exchange, the lessees get to be guinea pigs, shaking down these heavily retrofitted MINIs to see how the electric drivetrains work for Americans. The MINI E was first shown at November’s L.A. Auto Show, but MINI introduced it again in Detroit just in case somebody missed it the first time.


BYD just started selling the F3DM plug-in hybrid for approximately $22,000 in China, and they showed that car on their Detroit stand along with their all-electric e6 crossover. None of BYD’s products are currently for sale, or even certified for sale in the U.S., but this should not stop the automotive industry from recognizing what a serious competitor BYD will become in just a few short years.

BYD Chairman and President Wang Chua-fu stressed the quick-charge nature of their Fe batteries that help power the F3DM, and provide all of the juice for the e6 crossover. When zapped with their special charging unit, batteries can gain a 50-percent charge in only ten minutes, and a full charge in just one hour. Overnight charging to 100-percent capacity using 110-volts requires 7.5 hours. Range for the e6 pure electric is close to 250 miles.

BYD also claimed that their new Fe batteries were capable of 2000 charge cycles, and had excellent durability. Batteries create voltage based on internal chemistry, and knowledge of this particular iron mix has been around for years. Sometimes called the Super-Iron battery, the chemistry is related to other lithium cells. The benefits of the BYD Fe design is that the materials it can use for its cells cost less and are more readily recyclable than competitive batteries using materials such as cobalt.

The Take Away

Maybe it’s time for somebody to fire up the old Detroit Electric automobile company. That entity was the last major producer of electric-powered vehicles from Detroit, and their last car was delivered in 1939. With all the electric-car news from the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, maybe it’s time for somebody to pull a Phoenix move and get the company started again.

Rex Roy is an editor of EV-Motoring.com and can be reached via his website, www.RexRoy.net.

Pages: 1 2