Opel RAK e Could Sell for $10,000

2011 Frankfurt Auto Show


  • Opel RAK e Picture

    Opel RAK e Picture

    GM says it is investigating production feasibility for its electric tandem two-seater, the RAK e. | September 13, 2011

3 Photos

2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • GM says it is investigating production feasibility for its electric tandem two-seater.
  • The RAK e has a range of 60 miles and a top speed of 75 mph and can accelerate to 62 mph in less than 13 seconds.
  • Though a four-wheeler, the RAK e's rear track is very narrow, a pair of wheels attached to what could be the world's narrowest live axle, mounted in unit with a single swing arm.

FRANKFURT, Germany — Opel's RAK e electric tandem two-seater "is a very serious concept," says General Motors Europe boss Nick Reilly, adding that the company is investigating production feasibility and believes the car could go on sale for around $10,000.

The RAK e has a range of 60 miles and a top speed of 75 mph and can accelerate to 62 mph in less than 13 seconds. It weighs only 836 pounds despite a core structure made from high-strength steels rather than the composites and aluminum that would usually be used in a car like this. The rest of it is made from "a strategic choice of composite materials," says lead designer Richard Shaw, and it's "very rigid." The car, he adds, has been designed "with production in mind."

Though a four-wheeler, the RAK e's rear track is very narrow, a pair of wheels attached to what could be the world's narrowest live axle, mounted in unit with a single swing arm. Reilly says that "we started with one big wheel, but it's got two wheels because of the mass of the second passenger, and for stability." The front suspension is double wishbone, the springs lying longitudinally behind the wishbones for packaging reasons.

The RAK e's roof canopy pivots on a parallelogram mechanism to allow access to the cockpit, while the steering wheel and column rise to ease access for the driver. A central steering column that bisects the pedals means that drivers will left-foot brake, kart-style.

Reilly is keen to see whether the RAK e can provide a replacement for the now-abandoned electric version of the company's city car, which has been scrapped for cost reasons. Pricey batteries are also an obstacle for the RAK e project.

"We've got to work on costs," says Reilly, and "we've got to refine it and do it right." But it's clear that this tandem electric car can be sold for considerably less than an electric conversion of a conventional car.

"We want to show it to a few governments and see if they're serious about EVs," he says. If they are, and GM Europe can overcome the technological and manufacturing challenges posed by this car, we could very likely see it as an unusual sister EV to the Ampera.

Whether it could be offered with the Chevy Volt in the U.S. remains to be seen. So far, Opel has only thought about the RAK e in a European context.

The RAK e name comes from the rocket-propelled Opel RAK 2 driven by Adam Opel's grandson Fritz in 1928, with the e in this concept's name standing for electric and experimental.

Edmunds.com says: The RAK e, the Audi Urban Concept, VW's single-seat NILS concept and Peugeot's earlier electric EV1 two-seater all suggest a growing enthusiasm for small, radical city cars like this. Let's hope at least one manufacturer is brave enough.

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