Japanese Electric Car Startup Explains Why Its Cars Look So Wacky

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We all know that most electric cars are more energy efficient than their gasoline counterparts, but just how do you improve on the limited range most electric cars have?

For some automakers like BMW, the answer lies in making an electric car as lightweight as possible. For others, the answer is to make the battery pack as large as possible

But for Japanese startup electric car firm SIM-Drive Corp., the answer lay in redesigning the humble automobile, making it as aerodynamic as possible. 

The result? 

The SIM-LEI, a bizarre-looking electric car powered by four, 65 kilowatt in-wheel motors which SIM-Drive Corp. plans to put into production in the next two years. 

While we’ve seen the car before, yesterday the team responsible for the ultra-efficient car released a YouTube video detailing just why the unusual car looks the way it does. 

And believe us, the SIM-LEI is unusual. Achieving a drag coefficient equivalent to the much-missed General Motors EV1 from 1996, the SIM-LEI can travel up to 186 miles on a battery pack barely bigger than the one found in the 2012 Nissan Leaf. 

It can also seat four, can carry a large amount of luggage, and accelerates from 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds. 

Looking something like a cross between a Toyota Prius and the Jetson’s car, the SIM-LEI isn’t pretty. With a long hood, tall body, fish-like rear and protruding side-impact beams on the outside of the vehicle, you could say it is only something its mother could love.

Explaining the design features in great detail from the shape of the rear-view mirrors to the car’s unusual posterior, the 3 minute video explains why the SIM-LEI looks the way it does. 

And while we don’t think most car buyers will want to drive down the street in a SIM-LEI just yet, we can’t help but think if we’re looking at the car design of the future. 

What do you think? Let us know in the Comments below. 


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Comments (21)
  1. From what I could find this has a 24.5 KWH battery. If this really gets twice the range of a Leaf on the same size battery than this is a pretty efficient car. It does seem rather practical too but I doubt the market viability of something that looks so odd. Well, outside Japan anyway...

  2. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect that my 2002 Honda Insight fathered a child with a 2012 I-MiEV, but I don't think that's possible.

  3. Why would anyone want to spend their hard earned money on a Butt ugly 3 wheel glorified electric golf cart. Give a a Tesla Model S over these fuglymobiles any day. Ugly doesn't sell well. Most people would be willing to pay a little more for a better looking car with a better battery than a comprimised ugly joke of a vehicle.

  4. 4 wheels. I counted them carefully.

  5. Another failed car in the making; engineers, please consult industrial designers before you create another all-function no-aesthetics design no one wants!
    The hideous shape isn't the only reason for the excellent range, so at least this exercise has moved drive-train technology forward. I'm sure Nissan et al will review the advancements carefully, but will plan for an exterior that sells.

  6. Depending on the vehicle's performance (mostly concerned how the car handles in turns, slalom and cross winds, due to narrow footprint), I think this is viable. I find it somewhat attractive, lots of cargo space, sufficient range and great efficiency numbers. I do believe their approach to the console is the future for automobiles. Smaller side mirrors with cameras that display in the dash, large interactive monitors in the center console, etc. This vehicle has a real shot, if it reaches production and the batteries are cheap enough for a reasonably priced competitor to the i-MiEV.

  7. Yes, no clue about the pricing. At $30K it would have a good shot.

  8. Looks OK to me aside from the headlight positioning,and fascia. It could be made to look more stylish though. It is all about value. Few people would need an electric car as a long range vehicle, and this isn't there either. Most people need sixty max per day. They would be better off keeping the price down.

  9. I don't think this looks too bad, myself. But it'd be a pain to park. And i agree re: three wheels, but this has four.

  10. IT looks better than some cars on the road today. Depending on the price I could see it selling.

  11. I like it, it looks efficient. I dislike the unqualified superlative use "as aerodynamic as possible."

  12. I wanted an Aptera. I think our Leaf is far, far from what I find is a good looking car, but For me function trumps ideals in beauty. I would consider this, and many of you seem to be missing that 0-60 time of 5.5seconds. That kind of performance gives its own kind of personal reward. At anything under $35,000 this would be very attractive.

  13. I hope the Sim-Lei’s design does provide a glimpse of the future. Keeping down drag coefficient was the reasoning behind the Prius II’s shape. It got a drag coefficient of around 0.19, which Sim-Lei may very well improve on, apparently.

    That Prius may have seemed strange-looking for some people, when it was introduced, but with that shape’s contribution to performance efficiency, Priuses shaped like that seem to be becoming rather well accepted, now. Maybe people are comprehending better the contribution body-shape has to a car’s efficiency, beyond mere “styling” aesthetics (as important as aesthetics may be toward sales, itself).

  14. We have to cultivate the idea that form follows function. Efficiency is king. 500 MPG is a beautiful thing even if the car isn't.

  15. 400 MPG is beautiful to me, and form follows function. It would be nicer to drive a snazzy looking car, but we have to cultivate the idea that efficiency is king and all the other attractions like looks, speed, handling, etc., are the king's court.

  16. This is the second or third most efficient car ever built. Think about that...

    And it is certainly the quickest and roomiest of this elite class. The other cars that are at the top of the list: the Edison2 VLC (which has lower aero drag at Cd of 0.161, but lags on drivetrain efficiency a bit), the early Aptera prototype, and the VW L1 prototype.

    Other cars that are close to this efficiency are the Illuminati Motor Works 7, the GM EV1, Dave Cloud's Dolphin, and the FVT eVaro. The DBM Energy Kolibri powered A2 is a laggard compared to these...


  17. All of these are low aero drag (the Illuminati 7 is the highest drag, I think?), and only the VW and the Edison2 are low weight. The SIM-LEI is quickest, the eVaro is next, and the 7 is also quick, followed by the EV1. The VLCe and Dolphin are DC drive, so they could be improved with AC drive. The Dolphin is super low drag, but with 1,980 pounds of batteries, it could lose 1,000 pounds and the battery pack could be ~2X greater capacity, and with AC drive it could have 400-500 miles of range.

    The VLCe has the shortest range, followed by the EV1. The Dolphin, SIM-LEI, and 7 are all very close with 200+ range. And obviously the L1 and the eVaro have range because of their gen sets.

  18. Who will be the first to have a 400 mile electric car? (At 55-60mph) The DBM Kolibri A2 could well be capable of this. With a 99kWh pack [/lust] it sure as heck *should* be! Drop that pack into the VLCe or the Dolphin or the SIM-LEI and I think they could hit 500-800 miles!

    Shameless plug: I am hoping to build a 5 seat electric car -- open source design called the CarBEN EV5, and with a ~56kWh pack it should easily go 300-400 miles and maybe even 500 miles at 55mph. I'm aiming for lower aero drag than the VLCe, and if it is, then this range is quite possible.


  19. This car is an example of how TRUE vehicle efficiency cannot be obtained solely by making the propulsion system more efficient, in other words, making it hybrid, electric, fuel cell or converting it to other alternative fuel. Complete vehicle efficiency comes from Whole System Design, i.e., designing the complete vehicle for efficiency, in this case for maximum mileage. Besides improving engine/motor efficiency, the vehicle must be made slender like a supermodel's body, light in weight and with streamlined balanced curves making the vehicle slippery in the air. Last but not least the rolling resistance of tires and other rotating equipment must be minimized. Now, I would not go as far as calling this car a supermodel but she appears to meet

  20. Several posters agree,(Neill,Ron,Ruben ...) efficiency is the key, performance will outsell looks (over time)and as lithium batteries kWh packs have improved (dramatically)with volume prices, this model is no slacker! Think back almost twenty years now fast forward another twenty and you have your car WITH charging stations on every block (Free and Fast Charge Pay Posts)the EV is here to stay. Price in twenty ... about $18k and quite the auto to boot!

  21. SIM-Lei has been heading in the right direction for sometime now. Unfortunately, we need to choose whether highly subjective aesthetics are more important than efficiency. Maybe when gasoline prices reach a very uncomfortable level for all will we embrace aerodynamics and not this sea of look alike boring cars on our roads.

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