The electric vehicle market was in for a surprise earlier this month at Russia’s Army 2018 expo, when Kalashnikov Group, the iconic maker of firearms and other military grade weapons, introduced a prototype electric supercar called the CV-1 (source in Russian) that company officials touted as a technological breakthrough that would compete directly with Elon Musk’s Tesla.
The CV-1: Kalashnikov's New Electric Vehicle
Kalashnikov said the CV-1, which was modeled on the 1970s Soviet-era Combi, included technology that reportedly would allow acceleration from 0-60mph in six seconds, a range of 217 miles (350 km) per charge, and features a car battery that allows 90 kWh of charging.
The 70s-styled CV-1. Image used courtesy of Kalashnikov media.
In addition, the company boasted that the car included a ‘revolutionary’ inverter technology that allowed 1.2 megawatt hours of energy, despite a compact and lightweight package design.
The surprise announcement created quite a stir throughout the industry. Industry experts, however, say the lack of pricing, detailed specs, and proposed timeline raise a few questions about whether the claims stand up to scrutiny in terms of providing any serious competition with top-of-the-line automakers.
According to the company, the inverter has dimensions of 50x50x100 cm and a mass of 50kg, allowing 1.2 MW of payload. Electric vehicle experts say the limited amount of information on the vehicle specs and the limited capacity of a company like Kalashnikov to go into mass production anytime soon, raises more questions than concerns about raising the bar on the existing market.
An Answer to the Tesla?
Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor at Kelley Blue Book, said that with no production facilities or distribution in the U.S., Kalashnikov cannot be considered a serious threat to Tesla. “Also, while the odd retro styling may appeal to some, it's not in the same league as other luxury electric vehicles on the market or coming soon like the Model S and X and the Jaguar I Pace."
DeLorenzo says, in terms of the battery capacity, 90 kWh is mainstream and the 217 miles per charge range is good, but not exceptional. The Bolt and Tesla Model 3 can both go farther per charge.
Regarding the acceleration credited to the inverter, the 0-60mph benchmark ‘pales in comparison’ to Tesla’s Ludicrous mode, he said. In 2016, Tesla announced that its Ludicrous mode could accelerate a vehicle from 0-60mph in 2.5 seconds. At the time, that made the Model S PD100 the third-fastest accelerating production car in the world. Last year, it rose to position two on that list via Ludicrous+ mode, bringing its acceleration to 2.28 seconds.
DeLorenzo added that it's not known whether the CV-1’s ability to recharge can compare to Tesla’s supercharging. “The specifications are rather sparse and, given that this is the first sign of development from this actor, I would quite confidently say that this is not a credible near-term competitor in the EV space,” said Bjorn Nykvist, research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute.
Nykvist said the pack range of 90 kWh is likely to become commonplace among automakers soon, so this is not a glimpse too far out into the future. He added that the inverter is not a limiting factor for BEV development. “They can be lighter and more efficient, but capacity is not something that determines the performance of EVs,” he said. He added that critical BEV performance metrics related to the drive train hinge on battery chemistry.
Whether Kalashnikov or other Russian automakers will be able to compete in global markets is up in the air. Also unclear is how ready Russians are to jump on the EV bandwagon. Will the Russian EV market mirror China's electric vehicle boom? Or will it struggle to fully take hold as arguably seen in the US EV market?
What's your take on the emerging EV market? Do you have experience in developing power systems for electric vehicles? Share your experiences in the comments below.