We had our doubts about Atieva’s claims, until we saw a video of the Atieva test mule beating out a Ferrari California T and a Tesla Model S at a drag race. Neither of these cars are slow—the Ferrari has 553 horsepower, while the Tesla, in its highest spec, creates 762 horsepower from its combined motors.
Atieva is a relatively unknown electric car startup based in the heart of Silicon Valley and it just unveiled its first test vehicle using a Mercedes-Benz Metris van platform. Atieva says its prototype produces 900 horsepower, and can do zero to sixty in 3.08 seconds.
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So, we know this Atieva van is fast. But where did it come from? Can a small startup really create a vehicle that can go toe-to-toe with some of the best in the industry?
It started New Years Eve 2007, when the company was founded by Sam Weng, Bernard Tse, and Sheaupyng Lin. Venrock, the venture capital arm of the Rockefeller family, was the initial investor.
At the start, Atieva devoted its time to developing its own battery pack technology. Thanks to extensive experience at Tesla and Oracle, the founders were able to take what they learned and apply it to their battery tech. By the end of 2013, it had accumulated over 50 patents in the U.S., and landed its battery packs in several motorcycles, sedans, vans, and buses.
In 2014, Atieva received enough funding from investors to expand its operations into another spectrum. It hired people related to the automotive industry, like designers, software engineers, and vehicle engineers. The company turned its focus to creating an actual road car, one that relied solely on electric power from its batteries.
Last week, Atieva unveiled its first prototype vehicle, nicknamed “Edna.”
Edna is a Mercedes-Benz Metris Van, originally built to move things and/or people around in a relatively normal, unexciting fashion. Now, thanks to the engineers at Atieva, the van contains a prototype version of the powertrain for the company’s upcoming sedan.
This powertrain is completely electric, capable of storing 87 kWh of energy, and has a staggering 900 horsepower. It uses two motors, not unlike the dual-motor setup on Tesla’s cars. Atieva states its also testing improvements like better accelerator pedal feel, motor control algorithms, and regenerative braking behaviors on the van to use for upcoming models. Atieva doesn’t disclose how many miles of range their powertrain can achieve, but do say that it “well exceeds today’s range limitations.”
While Atieva might still have quite a ways to go before it’s considered a legitimate Tesla competitor, this prototype van certainly shows the company has ambition. If it can keep its investors happy by improving on its powertrain capabilities and creating its own chassis, Atieva might have a very bright future.
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