In 1984, General Motors and Toyota joined forces to produce cars together at a single plant in Fremont, California. Called the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc., the joint venture gave Toyota its first manufacturing base in the U.S., and GM a chance to learn from its rival Toyota on quality and lean manufacturing techniques. Over the years the plant gave us the Geo Prizm, the Toyota Hilux, and Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix, among many other items.
One could argue that one company benefited more than the other from the partnership. But when GM announced it was shuttering the Pontiac brand, it also pulled out of the NUMMI plant, leaving Toyota holding the reigns. Toyota announced it too would pull out of the plant, and it looked like another manufacturing center and hundreds of jobs would be lost. Enter Aurica Motors, maker of electric cars. They have a plan to save the plant, and many of the jobs, by retooling the plant to build electric cars.
Aurica Motors is one of the many under-the-radar electric car startups with big dreams… and apparently big capital. The NUMMI plant is the only car plant west of the Mississippi and the entire facility covers about 88 football fields worth of land. Idling such a massive plant, and its 4,700 workers, would not do the economy any good. Aurica thinks it can save the plant and those jobs by retooling the plant for its all-wheel drive electric E-Car, though it has yet to produce or sell a single example.
But everybody needs to start somewhere, right? Besides, Aurica is going to seek federal assistance to buy and convert the plant and train employees in making electric cars. With 4,700 jobs directly at risk, and thousands of other supplier jobs indirectly affected, it seems to make good economic sense. As far as the E-Car Aurica intends to build at the plant, details are hard to come by. An estimated price is set between $40,000 and $50,000, and the car is supposed to have all-wheel drive, four separate electric motors, and an interchangeable body much like the Trexa. Four body styles will be available for the single chassis. and the E-Car will make use of Aurica’s “Recurve Drive” system that they claim allows them to travel father on the same battery charge.
Speaking of battery charges, the Aurica also takes the idea of a battery-swapping station and combines it with renewable energy sources. The battery packs can be charged from either renewable sources, or plugged right into its grid, and battery swapping supposedly takes just three minutes. Sounds nice, but will it work? Will Aurica save NUMMI? If they do, they say it will be two years before cars start rolling down the assembly line. I maintain a healthy skepticism of any company that comes out of nowhere like this, but I wish them luck all the same. I’m sure the NUMMI workers would be happy to make cars again, electric or otherwise.
Check out the full press release on the next page.
Source: Aurica Motors