When we think of electric vehicles, we usually have images of futuristic or weird-looking cars whirring past us silently like those bubble-canopy flying machines featured in The Jetsons. Those were the EVs of before. Nowadays, electric vehicle technology is at a point where even regular family cars have their own electrified versions without being outlandish.
Such is the case with the GP EX-100 (GP stands for Guider Power, and you’ll know why in a short bit). At its display booth at the 7th Philippine Electric Vehicle Summit, the EX-100 looked like it didn’t have anything revolutionary lurking underneath its rather sedate body. The car’s rear end even appeared to have been grafted from the Chevrolet Optra. My questions were initially entertained by personnel manning the booth, but I wanted to have a word with the guy who knew this thing inside and out. That’s where Engineer Youssef Ahmad, chairman of the Le’ Guider International E-Trike Electronic Assembly Philippines (whew!), came in. According to the gentleman, there was so much more going on under the skin of the pedestrian-looking EX-100.
The GP EX-100 is powered by a permanent magnetic motor hooked up to a regular five-speed manual transmission. Unlike direct-drive systems common in a lot of electric cars, the gear ratios allow the torque from the motor to be multiplied several times over just like in a vehicle fitted with an internal-combustion engine. This gives the EX-100 the necessary pulling power to negotiate steep inclines and mountain roads. Ahmad claimed that their company was “the only one in the world that uses such a design for the powertrain.”
Shove the gearbox into fifth and the EX-100 is supposedly capable of a top speed of 160km/h. And it gets better. Ahmad said that maximum range was up to 200km depending on the driving style and the use of various systems such as the air-conditioner. And while the indicated charging time on the vehicle’s spec sheet is two to three hours, he proudly pointed out that the EX-100’s batteries could go from fully depleted to fully charged in around an hour. Pretty slick, if you ask me.
But all the high-tech wizardry that makes the car tick comes at a rather steep price—I was quoted the princely sum of P1,750,000
Asked about the EX-100’s place of manufacture, the executive explained that all the components are made in the Philippines—either built in-house or outsourced from local suppliers. But all the high-tech wizardry that makes the car tick comes at a rather steep price. I was quoted the princely sum of P1,750,000 should I decide to place an order for the car. While it is as expensive as a well-equipped SUV, Ahmad assured me that running costs are much, much lower by virtue of it being battery-powered and the fact that the powertrain is practically maintenance-free (no fluids to replace every six months, for instance).
I was given the opportunity to take the EX-100 out for a short spin. Because of the electric motor and manual gearbox combo, it was unlike any EV I had driven before. To change gears, I depressed the clutch pedal like with any stick-shift car. But that’s where the similarities to the usual clutch operation end. Since the electric motor didn’t idle, I never had to feather the clutch and the accelerator to pull away from a standstill. I just hit the go-pedal and the EX-100 smoothly gained momentum. Accelerate from a complete stop in third gear and the electric motor never bogs down simply because maximum torque is available at 0rpm.
But while the people at Le’ Guider were more than willing to hand me the keys to their baby for a quick drive, the same couldn’t be said when I whipped out my camera phone to get some detailed shots. This was very much apparent when I politely asked them to pop the hood. Ahmad sternly told me that I could look but pictures were a no-no. My guess is that they’re keeping the design of the power unit a closely guarded secret.
The GP EX-100 may not be as mainstream (yet) as the offerings of more established carmakers, but that doesn’t mean it can’t hold its own against these rivals. As a licensed engineer myself, I can’t help but be astounded by the technology in this car and the pride of the people behind it. I seriously want this car to be as commonplace on our streets as the ubiquitous Toyota Vios because we’ll eventually reap the rewards of reducing our carbon footprint by going electric.
But then there’s the matter of the prohibitive pricing. If I’m honest, I’d say no one is going to touch this car at that price. On the company’s official website, the EX-100 is presented as a taxicab option, which means it is being aimed at taxi fleet operators. I’m not sure how these transport providers would pick the pricey EV over, say, a much cheaper Vios or Hyundai Accent. If Toyota is having a hard time moving the P2,289,000 Prius in our market, Le’ Guider seriously needs to be le guided in the area of competitive pricing.