Hypercars are in the spotlight at the moment as manufacturers increasingly recognise the benefits of showcasing new technology. Carlos Satulovsky is the founder and CEO of a Californian sustainable mobility start-up that entered the market in the fourth quarter of 2020. These are his thoughts on this extreme class of machinery
Although a former commercial airline pilot for over 15 years, as a child Carlos Satulovsky dreamt of becoming an elite car maker. The dream became reality when he teamed up with long-time friend and a championship-winning race car constructor Mauro Saravia, and Elation Hypercars was formed. The name Freedom was chosen for the debut model.
Satulovsky has gone on to hand-pick a team of experts to pursue his goal of “developing a true automotive masterpiece.” He’s not alone in the field, with Pininfarina and Rimac among the manufacturers joining this niche market. So:
Why so Much Interest in Hypercars Now?
The surge of interest only makes sense. The automotive industry has always been focused on innovation and new possibilities. Years ago, supercars dominated the mediascape, entrancing audiences with their impressive performance capabilities. More recently, as technology advanced further, hypercars took centre stage.
There is frequent debate over what constitutes a hypercar. In short, they, like the supercars before them, are signposts of ingenuity and innovation. The world of automobiles will always be motivated by those at the top – those who push the envelope in matters of performance, luxury and technology.
We are happy to be part of that avant garde, especially being one of the few hypercar manufacturers choosing all-electric power for the Freedom.
How are you going to be Testing it?
Testing started in the digital world. We are able to put the car through a variety of scenarios and to safely observe its behaviour all the way to its absolute limits.
Once these exhaustive tests are completed, physical testing cycles will begin to confirm digital findings.
Early development started in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Customer production and assembly will be accomplished at the Elation Hypercars headquarters in northern California.
What materials are you using?
The carbon fibre monocoque chassis is inspired by the innovations of Formula 1. The body is constructed entirely of the highest-quality Italian carbon fibre. Using these materials, we are able to minimise the amount of metal used in the construction of the car and optimise weight reduction.
How is Covid affecting things?
The pandemic has had an impact on our company on a logistical level. Production and delivery of prime materials needed for the prototyping have been delayed significantly. Happily, as infection rates reduce worldwide, these issues are slowly being alleviated.
How have non-traditional carmakers like Tesla shaken things up?
Mainstream electric vehicle OEMs have done great work in up-ending our industry. Before many of these manufacturers came along, the automotive world seemed destined to continue churning out internal combustion-powered cars despite the obvious pressures of climate change. Today we find ourselves in a new landscape where electric cars are becoming the new normal.
Often, hypercars are at the forefront of innovation in the automotive world. Through our contribution, we hope to inspire present and future generations to join the ongoing electric revolution which ultimately benefits all of humanity and planet Earth.
How can Charging be Improved?
Improvements are needed in charge rate and charging efficiency. These are heavily dependent on cell chemistry – each type of lithium-ion battery has specific issues related to how fast they can be charged without damaging the cell or shortening its life. Specifically, what we do includes selecting cells that have a lower equivalent series resistance (ESR) and higher peak charging rate, aggressively cooling
the battery pack (including the individual battery cells) and cooling the internal busbars and collector plates that are in series with the charging current. Also, we are providing a high-current DC fast-charge connector and interface to existing DC fast-charge infrastructure and running a high-voltage pack which allows higher charge power (and shorter charge times) without increasing charge current.
How useful are Supercapacitors?
Supercapacitors are an interesting technology but they simply can’t store enough energy for an EV. They are thousands of times less energy-dense than batteries. Their advantage is power density – they are better at meeting big peak power demands as long as those are very short.
So they may have a role as a peaking source – essentially, a hybrid of supercap and battery is possible, but as batteries have improved over the past few years, this doesn’t make much sense anymore. What does make sense is in a fuel cell vehicle – a fuel cell supercap hybrid is a great idea and exploits the capability of supercaps to fill in the limitations of fuel cells.
But in a car like the Freedom, using the latest lithium-ion battery cells available, we can achieve the peak power required, even in a relatively small battery pack. We’re not afraid of complexity, but we won’t add it if we don’t need to.
How are Motors Improving?
Most of the development in motors for BEVs is focused on reducing the high volume-manufacturing cost – reducing rare earth magnet content, etc. This is absolutely necessary to make EVs ubiquitous, but we have a different focus.
On the Freedom we care about performance more than cost – the motor we want is smaller, lighter, with much higher peak power density. Our main focus is improved efficiency so that the motor can tolerate the higher peak power demand.
Improved cooling of the stator copper and rotor magnets is crucial here. Not to mention reduced weight and volume, so we can package the motor in the envelope available and achieve such a lightweight to achieve the peak performance we want.
How will the Relationship Between Electrics and Gearboxes Evolve?
Mass-market EVs and electric motorcycle applications leverage a single-ratio driveline with no gear shifts. This works well with the performance envelope and speed range of standard road vehicles. Commercial vehicles are a mix, some require a 2- or 3-speed gearbox but others may be fine with a single-speed reduction.
A hypercar needs to provide high performance (>1G acceleration) at low and high speed regimes. This usually means at least a 2-speed gearbox to effectively deploy the torque the motor can deliver to the wheels. Other supercars use non-gear-based techniques to achieve high-performance, but a multi-speed gearbox will set the Freedom apart and enable it to achieve higher performance at all speed ranges.
What Effect will Electrification have on Chassis Design?
Torque vectoring is a way to create steering momentum without steering the wheels. By controlling the torque to each wheel individually, one can assist the steering system in real-time. One can also, in theory, implement vehicle stabilisation while increasing performance rather than braking a wheel in a corner and slowing down. This will be a really exciting frontier that general passenger cars don’t need but can make driving a lot more fun.
Torque vectoring also holds great potential for improving driver safety by improving vehicle stability management capability and simultaneously improving vehicle speed through the corner. It’s not efficient to have the vehicle apply brake torque at a corner when the car starts to rotate, when it could have applied accelerating torque at another corner to achieve the same yaw rate change.
In handling and suspension design, there are also potential improvements for the future. The most obvious is an active damper – a linear motion electric motor replaces the damper (it still needs the spring though). Now one can potentially eliminate vehicle bump (the occupants won’t feel anything even if driving over a railroad tie at 100km/h). Also, one can eliminate vehicle dive under braking, or even hunch the rear in heavy braking to reduce effective weight transfer and improve rear tyre traction. Finally one can eliminate vehicle lean in cornering, or even lean the other way to improve lateral tyre grip.
And the HVAC?
Climate controls and environmental controls in EVs are a major issue. In commuter traffic in places like Malaysia (35°C ambient, 95% humidity, average speed less than 10kph) a large part of the vehicle battery capacity is consumed just powering the climate controls. Innovations on cooling the driver rather than the air, higher-efficiency heat pumps, etc – lots of work is ongoing in this space. But the real issue is the human factor – how do we achieve occupant comfort without wasting so much energy in the climate-control system? This will certainly improve over the next decade.
What will Filter Down to the Mainstream?
Mainstream electric vehicle OEMs are often limited by budgets. As a result, these manufacturers don’t have the freedom to push the envelope on the latest innovations in the industry – technologies that are not yet ready for high-volume production.
Conversely, in the development of our car, we do have this ability. It is our job to push the envelope in every way imaginable for the benefit of the entire automotive industry. In the design of the Freedom, we’ve made great strides in the latest power device technologies, packaging designs, materials and battery-cooling methods.
An inherent demand when building a hypercar is reaching unprecedented performance benchmarks. To reach such heights, you must make use of the latest technology available on the market or create them yourself – such as we have at Elation Hypercars. In doing so, we are able to validate these previously untested innovations. We hope that our contributions at the hypercar level will help shape the future of our entire industry.
Keep up to date with the progress here.