Home-Built Electric Car ‘Xe Điện’ Has 20 Mile-Range on Costco BatteriesBy Cuong Huynh • Jun 16th, 2009 • Category: Clean Car Talk Posts
I met Minh Duong at San Diego’s Street Smart a couple of Sundays ago. He was showing off his 3-wheeled electric car named Xe Điện (literally means ‘electric car’ in Vietnamese) among the Priuses, Honda Insights, even a Tesla Roadster. I spent a few minutes with Minh to chat about his creation of the electric car, his passion to start this personal project and what he hopes to achieve in the future.
A little bit about Minh Duong. He’s the Director of Engineering of at PDG Oncore, a local product engineering and development shop. DPG Oncore maintains offices in San Diego,CA and Vancouver, WA. Minh has 11 years professional experience in high efficiency electric vehicle development, product architecture development of a broad range of products, and miniature, precise, multi-function mechanisms for high volume products. He’d worked on various consumer and enterprise projects ranging from ink jet photo printer architecture and automated backup data storage libraries, to high power supply connection for the fusion research center, to motorcycle power car and electric concept cars. Minh earned his BSME from University of California, San Diego.
Xe Dien is a prototype vehicle. It is street legal and has a range of about 20 miles with its current battery pack configuration using Costco batteries. The pack provides 7.1 kW-hr of energy. The vehicle has two wheels in front under a fiberglass fairing, and a single, motorcycle style driving wheel behind the driver. Power to the back wheel is provided by a high performance AC induction motor from HPGC through a motorcycle chain, and a Curtis 1238 controller. The vehicle gets peak power of 35 hp and benefits from a torque of 100 ft-lb (0-2000 rpm.) Xe Dien can take off from 0 to 60 mph in 10 seconds.
All in all, Xe Dien looks to fall in a category called neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), but it can go faster than 40 mph, so to me it is a full EV. The prototype project took 18 months, with vehicle design started in December 2006 and fabrication began in March 2007. Here are some of the Q&As I had with Minh.
CCT: What are some of the most challenging factors you faced during this project?
MD: The most challenging part to build was the fiberglass body of the car. That alone took 4 months to build – and still there are many cosmetic flaws. It doesn’t help that I did not have any fiberglass experience.
CCT: You mentioned that although this was a personal project, you did receive some sponsorship. What was the split in total cost that came from the sponsor and from your own pocket?
MD: PDG Oncore provided access to free engineering consultation, build material, and shop use. My out-of-pocket expense was around $9k.
CCT: What are some improvements you still like to see to a) improve range? b) improve charge time? c) improve efficiency?
MD: There are two improvements I would like to incorporate. The first is extending the range. My original plan was to use lithium iron phosphate batteries, but cost of the pack delayed my plans. I should have the lithium battery pack installed in two months. I will have 80-100 mile/charge range with a 13.3 kW-hr battery pack. The design objective of my car is to be ultra energy efficient.
CCT: What would it take to commercialize this car and produce in quantity? What design change will it require?
MD: I have no current plans to commercialize the first prototype I built (shown at Street Smart). I have formed a team to develop a more practical 2 seat – 3 wheel electric vehicle. Transitioning our car into low volume kit or rolling vehicle production is pretty straightforward. It would take us 6 months and $300k to complete our first phase development and build 5 functional vehicles. We would have to develop a mold for the body and welding fixtures for the chassis and other weldments during our first phase. Product development/engineering is our core business, so we know how to commercialize ideas. We won’t seek investment money for our vehicle until our vehicle design is ready for prototype fabrication.
I would rather not disclose the list of planned improvements for the next vehicle at this time.
CCT: Will you build one for a paying customer? What would be a ballpark price?
MD: We have not officially formed a business around our electric vehicle yet. If there is sufficient interest, we will accelerate our plans to develop and build vehicles for customers. Initial costing suggests that we can offer the rolling chassis at $10-12k. With lithium batteries and complete AC drive system installed, the vehicle should cost $25k.
Minh Duong can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minh Duong Talks About Xe Dien at
Street Smart San Diego 2009
Rear Wheel Area Showing Swingarm, Suspension and Motor/Controller Behind Driver
Below are some photos from Minh Duong’s flickr photostream. View more cool photos at mpduong’s photostream.
Xe Dien Motor and Controller Installation
Electric Car Xe Dien Side View
Minh Duong in His Xe Dien
Electric Car Xe Dien at 2008 Kick Gas Festival
Cuong Huynh is a marketing communications consultant working in the San Diego area. Cuong is dedicated to helping individuals and companies maximize their presence on the Internet and efficiently take products and services to market through SEO and network marketing. Cuong also maintains a blog on Marketing at marketingautopsyblog.com. You can also find Cuong Huynh's profile on LinkedIn. For fun he maintains a blog on Vietnamese pho, soccer and do storyboards for movie and film projects. Follow Cuong on Twitter @CuongHuynh, @LovingPho, @CleanCarTalk, @BlockbusterFilm, @SoccerUSA.
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