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March 7, 2018

Giugiaro’s supercar concept EV gives back to the power grid

by John_A

The Giugiaro Sybilla is a bonkers concept EV with a fighter jet-like sliding canopy, gull-wing doors and screens everywhere, including the doors. But the vehicle from GFG Style, penned by auto design legend Giorgetto Giugiaro, is actually meant as a showcase for sustainable grid technology, believe it or not. It was built for Chinese windmill manufacturer Envision Group to illustrate how electric cars can connect intelligently to homes, businesses and charging stations so they don’t overwhelm future electrical grid systems.

The car itself — a one-off that will never be built — is one of the quirkier concepts at the Geneva Motor Show, and that’s saying a lot. While it certainly fits the supercar mold, it has items like the electric bubble canopy that you don’t see every day. In keeping with the green motif, it also has modest performance specs: a 400-kW motor, 450 kilometers of range from a 100-kWh battery, speeds around 120 mpg, and a 0-to-60-mph time of 4.5 seconds.

The always-animated Giugiaro, responsible for the design of mythical gas-powered vehicles like the Aston Martin DB4 GT, DeLorean DMC-12, and Ferrari 250 GT SWB Bertone, said that EVs provide one huge benefit to designers. “The big difference with electric vehicles is that there is more space for the passengers,” he told Engadget. “You can see that in the prototype, and in other electric cars.”

The Sibylla, though, is really meant to highlight the infrastructure part of EV ownership. “The grid is the real elephant in the room when it comes to electric cars,” Envision designer Jianfeng Yan said. “Let’s say 10 percent of the cars in France become electrified, that’s three million cars. If all of them charged at the same time, with a fast charge, that would create a load of 300 gigawatts. Historically, the peak load in France is 100 gigawatts. So there’s a huge infrastructure challenge.”

The answer is to make sure that cars only charge when power is cheap and plentiful, and that they can kick energy back to the grid when it’s overwhelmed. So beneath the Sybilla’s lovely exterior is technology that lets the the Sybilla connect to systems in your home, office and in public to only charge at the optimal times — and give back power when needed.

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The Giugiaro Sibylla is a grid-connected supercar.

Steve Dent/ Engadget

At the same time, the vehicle would assuage the owner’s conscience by only pulling power from green sources. “An electric vehicle is only as green as the energy it runs on,” said Yan. “China is still 70 percent coal-fired, so you can’t really say it’s green energy at all. Our technology lets customers access 100 percent sustainable energy at a low cost, by connecting to 100 gigawatts of renewable assets and millions of smart devices.”

We’ve heard of similar ideas from companies like Tesla and, most recently, Renault, with its “smart island” that uses grid tech to let cars share their battery power. However, Envision is already using the tech in China, and said that, unlike companies like Tesla, is agnostic about the type of vehicles, chargers, devices and grids. “It’s not about the devices, it’s how you connect and synchronize them,” Yan said.

The Sibylla is a one-off concept, but it’s built on a standard platform and it wouldn’t be hard for the right company to turn it into a slightly less exotic production car. “Apart from the sliding canopy, the wheelbase is the same as an existing car from, and the suspension is from a real car. So the question is, who has the money to get this kind of car into production?” asked Giugiaro. “Take a brand like Audi, for example. If they said ‘I want to do this type of car,’ in two years, you would see it on the road.”

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