The Atlis XT is coming to Australia and we can’t wait…it’ll offer a 15-minute charge time and be designed for heavy work, Atlis founder and CEO Mark Hatchett told us…
Like it or not, every carmaker has committed to electrifying their entire range over the next few years, and phasing out internal combustion engines (ICE) completely after that. This has been driven by increasingly stringent emissions regulations which engineers are finding harder and harder to meet for petrol and especially diesel vehicles; that’s what led to #dieselgate. It’s also why a lot of new engines tend not to see massive power and torque jumps compared to their predecessors, as engineers are increasingly focussed on reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
See, the poor old ICE engine needs so much extra kit to meet emissions; catalytic converters, exhaust gas re circulation, AdBlue (DEF) for diesels as well as particulate filters (for petrol and diesel) to name just a few. Electric vehicles (EVs) need none of that stuff.
But at the moment, there’s no EV that can match the likes of a Ford Ranger for capability away from the bitumen. Still, the market is not short of players, although interest from the established ICE carmakers seems low as they focus more on the car market. In the 4X4 market there is a small but significant commercial market for EV-converted 70 Series for use on mines, from companies such as Voltra, Zero and Tembo, and we have covered the work of EVolution which is converting a 1976 Range Rover Classic to electric.
But any aftermarket conversion, or a carmarker re-purposing an ICE-based chassis suffers from the fact the vehicle wasn’t built from the ground up as an EV. That means you end up with a compromised design, for example, putting batteries into odd locations wherever they will fit. The best EVs are clean-sheet designs and there’s quite a number of them – Rivian, Bollinger, the Tesla Cybertruck, and Atlis.
Me personally, I’m particularly interested in Atlis because it’s taking a practical approach to its vehicles. Atlis recognises that people want to carry, tow and drive off-road – and it understands the challenges of fleet management and logistics, too. This is in stark contrast to, shall we say, the Cybertruck – nothing I have seen about that vehicle indicates it’ll be a practical tool of the trade or suitable for an off-road tourer. So, that’s why I sat down with Mark Hanchett, Atlis founder and CEO.
Obviously, the first question I asked was whether Atlis would be coming to Australia or other RHD markets. Hanchett said, “We have a plan to enter that market, once we’ve ramped up production in the US”. So, yes, folks, the Atlis XT will be coming to Australia and I’d suspect other RHD markets like South Africa and the UK, too. Hanchett also confirmed that “[Atlis’] core target is to chase after the market dominated by heavy-duty diesel trucks”, which is good news for those of us who want a practical vehicles.
What’s the platform all about?
The Atlis XP platform has, what I term, IWD, or individual wheel drive; one motor per wheel, mounted inboard with all-wheel steer (AWS) with all controls, like steering being drive-by-wire, not mechanical. This offers massive advantages over the usual arrangement of an engine and three differentials delivering drive to all four wheels, a design I’m calling CWD (combined wheel drive). In short, with IWD you won’t need cross-axle locking differentials, and rather than rely on brake-based stability control, advanced vehicle dynamics is enabled by more effective torque regulation and steering.
The XP platform is also extendable, so, the same basics could be used for a 6×6 instead of a 4×4. I asked Hanchett about his view on the architecture, and he said the “biggest advantage is a lack of components and failure points” – something we can all relate to, and that torque on each wheel “can be adjusted by the millisecond to a very, very fine degree of accuracy”.
A 15-minute recharge?
But while IWD and AWS is impressive, what really sets Atlis apart is the recharge and range target. The two are interlinked; you want a battery which delivers long range, and a rapid recharge – that’s the only way EVs will truly replace ICE working vehicles. Atlis is aiming for an 800km range and a 15-minute, and then a five-minute recharge. And the range will be real-world, Hatchett said. Now if those figures sound surprising, that’s because the technology to achieve them doesn’t yet exist, so, Atlis is inventing it. Hanchett said, “we’ve achieved [15m] today…we’ve achieved as fast as 9 minutes 26 seconds”. And what’s the secret to such groundbreaking tech? “Proper chemistry selection and mechanical aspects of what we can do to the battery”.
Now one of the problems with current batteries is you shouldn’t constantly fast-charge them, and often you are recommended to only operate them between about 20 and 80%. Tesla has even restricted owners from supercharging due to battery damage. The Atlis technology will be designed for 0-100% charges, with Hanchett saying it will “eliminate the necessity for the user to think about how far to charge it up, how far to discharge it”. And that goes for the lifecycle too, as he added “after 2000 [cycles] you’ll start to see the battery degrade, typical non-linear degradation”.
So, with 800km range and 2000 cycles…that’s about 1.6 million kilometres before degradation, more than enough of a duty cycle. Atlis has also just signed a deal to fit its utes with tonneaus that are solar panels – that might deliver enough charge over a day to drive the vehicle for 15km or so, not a lot, but that could well be a free grocery shop, and every little bit helps if you’re looking for long range.
One of the most common objections to an EV 4X4, after range/recharge, is water crossings because, of course, electricity doesn’t mix well with water. But, this concern is hardly specific to EVs; every modern 4X4 has a huge number of electronic components, and the latest L663 Land Rover Defender boasts 85 ECUs, none of which enjoy water contact. Hanchett said the XP platform is fully sealed, “designed with complete immersion in mind”, and in fact it has customers who may have to leave the vehicle standing in more than one-metre of water during flood situations and still expect it to operate. Try that with any modern 4×4.
In further good news for off-roaders, Atlis is going to be an “aftermarket-positive” company, “[we will] open up to the aftermarket and supply CAD data”. The main battery system will be 1600v, with 48v and 12v step-downs, and 120/240AC outlets front/rear and in the cab. They have no plans for a winch fitment, but expect the aftermarket to offer that.
The mention of drive-by-wire earlier will have many readers shaking their heads in sorrow before taking a puff on their pipes and reminiscing about how good life was when TV was black and white. But Hanchett said the drive-by-wire design allows Atlis to “reduce complexity but create versatility” for example, the “front and rear drive module are identical”, which means lower cost of ownership and simplicity. And the safety systems are indeed modelled on aviation, with “an airline-centric approach to the problem” so any systems “fail in a progressive manner”.
If you don’t like reading, then you can watch Robert’s video interview with Mark below…and if you want to splash some cash you can even invest in Atlis from USD$247.
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