The vision of the future for the lightweight electric vehicle

  • Mobility
  • Smart Vehicle
  • Networking

Future mobility concepts promise great market potential for lightweight electric vehicles. From emission-free recreational travel through open terrain to fully automated, age-appropriate travel in gated communities: the range of applications for the fourwheel electric vehicles, so far mostly used on golf courses, is extremely wide.

Studies show that drivers of golf carts and neighbourhood electric vehicles (NEVs) already want more comfort and safety, such as an electronic stability program (ESP) to protect against tipping over off road. But considerably more electrical and electronic functionality is required to conquer the promising target markets. The functional prototype by AKKA Digital, formerly GIGATRONIK, represents a new generation of lightweight electric vehicles. It scores with technical innovations for this class of vehicle, such as a fully integrated touch display, the option of steering by sidestick or steering wheel, and emergency-brake and parking assists.

The novel NEV provides a variable platform for further development up to production readiness. It is based on AKKA Digital’s extensive interdisciplinary expertise in the field of the latest E/E and IT solutions for the automotive world and a development time of more than 30 months. The following interview gives more information about the market potential and the technical features of the lightweight electric vehicle.

Innovation for lightweight electric vehicles

  1. Driver-assistance systems such as emergency-brake assist increase safety
  2. Space-saving wheel-hub drive makes new vehicle concepts possible
  3. Connectivity makes remote access possible

“Use of intelligent technology to increase safety and comfort”

A short interview with Thomas Tannenberger, Division Manager for Complete Vehicle E/E, and Eduard Zimmer, Team Manager for Vehicle Architecture and Networking, at AKKA Digital’s Stuttgart site.

Thomas Tannenberger
Division Manager for Complete Vehicle E/E
AKKA Digital Stuttgart

How do you want to persuade more people to drive lightweight electric vehicles?

Above all, customers want more comfort and safety. We achieve this through a combination of electronics and IT – our core competencies. We expect a great demand for lightweight electric vehicles equipped with intelligent technology. The demographic shift alone will be a reason for an increased demand for age-appropriate NEVs, because these will enable older people to retain their mobility within their residential districts. However, this means that complex E/E functions are prerequisite for the vehicles. A fully automated lightweight electric vehicle moves almost silently, for example, which harbours a certain potential for accidents. We improve safety using various components such as ultrasonic sensors, radar, and camera systems with infrared and HD. These detect people in the vehicle’s path and automatically apply the NEV’s brakes in an emergency. When we tested this function with a client, we were able to apply our experience with a self-driving truck. In that project, the focus was on detecting vehicles ahead of the truck. Although this involves a different order of magnitude and requires modified sensor technology, the algorithms running in the background are in principle the same. We also achieve greater safety and comfort by the use of connectivity. Our NEV uses an integrated control unit with CAN-bus connection to read relevant vehicle data, such as the battery charge level, maintenance or location information, and sends this data to a cloud via a mobile communications link. Various target groups, such as vehicle users, manufacturers or workshops, can then access this information on smartphones and tablet PCs.

What were the technological milestones during the 30-month development period?

Today's prototype is the first generation of our lightweight electric vehicle. It is a standard golf cart that we have extended with drive-by-wire and parking and emergency-brake assists. However, this pushed the power train and driving dynamics to the limit. This is why we will give the second generation different drive and battery concepts. We have the drive, and we are currently developing the battery technology. The design of the third generation will be a complete new vehicle development and is aimed at autonomous driving. An important prerequisite for this is the implementation of by-wire functions for steering, braking and acceleration. We have already integrated a sidestick and steering wheel with pedals. Since there is no longer a mechanical steering column, the mechanical linkage is decoupled, so the steering wheel no longer moves during autonomous driving. We are also planning a completely modified frame, new bodywork and a new automotive body shell, as well as a high-quality interior. This version already exists as a CAD draft.

Eduard Zimmer
Team Manager for Vehicle Architecture and Networking
AKKA Digital Stuttgart 

»A fully automated lightweight electric vehicle moves almost silently, which harbours a certain potential for accidents. We improve safety using various components such as ultrasonic sensors, radar, and camera systems. These detect people in the vehicle’s path and automatically apply the NEV’s brakes in an emergency.«

Eduard Zimmer

From the prototype to the production model: how should this be done?

Our lightweight electric vehicle has proven that innovative technologies such as driver-assistance systems, environment detection and connectivity function can be implemented in this class of vehicle. The market analyses that accompany the development also point to an enormous market potential for different time horizons and applications. We have the expertise to prepare the systems for the market and to implement the technologies we develop in existing vehicle models. This is why we are open to different approaches and can imagine collaborating with manufacturers of lightweight electric vehicles and their suppliers as well as with an investor.