An Irish electric car could make debut in 2016

8 Jul 2015

Concept image of the Alex eraodster via Tom Finnegan

With Ireland’s history of car production long behind us, one man based in Co Leitrim is trying to reignite the industry once again, but this time for the 21st century, with Ireland’s first home-designed and built electric vehicle (EV).

It’s safe to say that Ireland has a rather chequered history when it comes to cars produced on this island.

Of course, we all know about the infamous DeLorean, manufactured in Belfast that, while one of the most iconic cars in film after its appearances in the Back to the Future series, was a commercial flop.

We also had the Shamrock, a car produced during the 1950s designed like the iconic American cars of its time, yet only a handful were sold and only one or two remain in existence.

Finally, in 1984 the last car produced in Ireland rolled off the production line at Ford’s factory in Cork with every car on the island since imported from abroad.

But now, engineer Tom Finnegan, who is based in Co Leitrim, wants to change that with his own vehicle, the Alex eroadster EV.

As a former rally driving instructor in Waterford, he admits to that he has always had an interest in what the future would hold for cars, and particularly the rise in EVs, but felt that his ideas 20 years’ ago were unfeasible at the time, but are now within sight.

Alex eroadster concept images

Concept image via Tom Finnegan

An Irish car from the ground up

Starting out as just a concept, Tom began to turn his concept into a reality after approaching the organisers of the Vital project, an EU-funded initiative that helps people with business ideas approach established businesses and form partnerships to create their idea.

In this case, many of the parts of Tom’s Alex eroadster will be sourced directly from Ireland, with the Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp)and Swift Composites in Louth helping on research for the composite material chassis, while Wicklow-based racing suspension manufacturers are working on the car’s undercarriage.

There’s also been design contributions from Northern Ireland, with Belfast-based design company BigSmall Design contributing to the Alex eroadster’s looks.

Providing a wealth of international experience will be the Danish company Ecomove, which has developed a sandwiched composite structure that is stitched together like bulletproof vests, making it as light as possible while giving the same strength as steel.

With this concept, the Danish company has already established itself in the renewable energies industry, having struck deals to construct wind turbines using its technology.

Tom says that when they begin construction of the first prototype, it will be much simpler to build than existing EVs: “The chassis is a little bit like Ikea as it can be flat-packed and assembled, so it doesn’t work like the old production lines. It’s a much simpler way of doing things.”

Alex eroadster team

The design team (L-R): Gabriel Mathews CEO Swift Composite Prototypes Ltd, Stephen McGilloway BigSmall Design, Mogens Lokke Ecomove Denmark, Mikkel Steen Pedersen Ecomove, Tom Finnegan, Stephen Brady TDP Suspension, Robbie Thornton TDP.

The little car, with big stats

The lightweight chassis is key to Tom’s overarching goal of having a strong car that is as light as physically possible to overcome EVs’ biggest obstacle when it comes to being considered an option for consumers: range.

Taking the example of the Nissan Leaf, the car’s max efficient range will see it go approximately 200km on a single charge, but in reality is closer to 160-170km. Tom, however, envisions his Alex eroadster going as many as 300km on a single charge.

As for the rest of the car, well Tom says it’s designed to be relatively nippy, capable of reaching a top speed of 130kph and can go 0-100kph in about 10 seconds thanks to its two AC motors in the back of the car.

While still very much in the design process at this stage, Tom and his national and international team have high hopes for it making its debut next year.

“Well, we always have to have a date and we do hope to have a prototype finished in July of next year and possibly a semi-prototype before then that will look like the car but might not be running, possibly by March.”

Look out Tesla, there’s a new player in town…

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic