A prototype of the Russian electric car Atom, the most ambitious project since the yo-mobile, was shown in Moscow. For a car, everything is developed from scratch: the platform, engines, batteries, control electronics, software, and so on. There are still two years left before the appearance of a mass-produced car, but the company promises that an innovative “digital” product with an autopilot, a projection display, augmented reality, smartphone control and even its own application store will be put on the conveyor. Representatives of the brand say that they are creating not only an electric car, but also a whole “digital environment of new mobility”. We got acquainted with the first sample of the Atom and are ready to tell everything that is currently known about this machine.
What is an Atom?
The idea of developing a domestic electric car was born inside KamAZ a few years ago, and for its implementation in 2021 a separate company was created – KAMA JSC with its main office in Naberezhnye Chelny. At the initial stage, technical and financial support for the project was provided by the Kama plant itself, as well as private investors, including director of the Russian automaker Sergey Kogogin and banker Ruben Vardanyan.
The exact amount of investment in the project is not disclosed, but earlier Sergei Kogogin said that KamAZ invested 360 million rubles, and the top manager’s personal investments amounted to about 30 million rubles. The company says that various “companies and funds” around the world are also showing interest in participating in the project – negotiations are underway with them, but their details are not disclosed.
Subsequently, the startup had offices in St. Petersburg, Togliatti and China, and among the partners were Rosatom structures (Renera and Rusatom RDS companies) and Nanjing Southeast University. The Italian design bureau Torino Design worked on the design of the electric car (it collaborated, among other things, with McLaren, BMW, FCA, Maserati and Ferrari), and the Chinese company IAT Automobile Technology, which is a technology partner of brands such as FAW-Volkswagen, helped create the Atom platform. Haima, Chery, Dongfeng Nissan and Beijing Hyundai.
Atom itself now employs about 500 people, many of whom have previously participated in Russian and global automotive, IT and technology projects, including Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Ford, Avito, Yandex and Sber.
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The development of the car is led by Harald Grubel, who worked at Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, and in the mid-2010s served as AvtoVAZ’s vice president for engineering when Bo Andersson was the head of the Russian company.
What’s inside the Atom?
At the moment, a scalable platform has been prepared for the car, which, among other things, can be all-wheel drive. But at the first stage, the electric car will be driven on one axle: initially, the company claimed that the Atom was front-wheel drive, but at a presentation in Moscow, Harald Grubel said that electric motors drive only the rear wheels.
The Atom is 3995mm long, 1780mm wide and 1615mm high. An electric car is 170 millimeters shorter and only 16 millimeters wider, for example, Lada XRay, but the company promises that due to layout solutions, the car interior will be as spacious as in C / D-class models.
At the presentation of the novelty, it was impossible to sit down and evaluate the amount of free space yourself, but at least it would be convenient to climb inside.
And not only convenient, but even with a “wow effect”: not a single Russian car has ever had retractable handles and hinged doors, and even without a central pillar! In Atom, they say that this arrangement will continue on a production machine.
It is too early to evaluate the interior of the Atom – this is the first prototype, and so far much has not been implemented in it. However, the main “chip” – the display built into the steering wheel – will most likely remain. Engineers suggest that it will serve as both a dashboard and a screen for a multimedia system.
He will even be responsible for choosing the operating modes of the power plant, but, according to the chief designer of the project, it is possible that a separate transmission selector may appear on a production car – perhaps something in the form of a small lever on the front panel.
As for whether it will be convenient to read information from this display – it is fixed on the steering wheel and, accordingly, rotates with it – the company says that they are still “studying and testing” this issue, but in any case, the driver should be assisted by a projection display. In addition, the steering wheel, as conceived by the engineers, will not rotate at large angles, so there should be no problems with reading information.
Why won’t the steering wheel rotate at large angles?
One of the main technological “chips” Atom – steering by wire. That is, the steering wheel is not mechanically connected to the wheels, so you can adjust the steering gear ratio as you like. There are no mechanical systems that, as, for example, Infiniti are activated in the event of a breakdown or some kind of emergency, are not provided. The company says that the electronic control will be reliable enough and will allow you to abandon the “extra parts”.
A similar system has already been installed on the first test Atom, and engineers are currently working on calibrating the control software.
A Russian-Chinese team of engineers led by Larry Wang, who has worked with Ford and Byton, is responsible for developing the high-voltage electric vehicle system. Now the company is preparing to carry out work on the integration, calibration, testing of batteries, electric drives, temperature control and battery management systems.
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The batteries themselves are being developed by Renera, an enterprise of Rosatom. The batteries, which will have a capacity of about 70 kilowatt-hours, are based on lithium-ion cells with a high energy density.
Batteries, high-voltage systems, suspension, steering and braking systems will begin testing on Atom prototypes this year.
The total power of the power plant has not yet been reported. Also, the battery charging time is not known from either “slow” or “fast” charges – both ports will be on board. It is only known that the Atom will be able to accelerate to “hundreds” in about seven seconds, and the cruising range will reach 500 kilometers.
Batteries will be produced in 2025 at the Reners plant in Kaliningrad.
What else is known?
All Atoms, including base versions, will be equipped with a wide range of safety systems, including lane keeping, traffic distance, traffic sign recognition, collision avoidance and car parking. There is no more detailed information – the company does not even say the planned number of airbags. However, Atom expects that according to the Chinese C-NCAP crash test method, the car will earn four stars out of five possible.
In addition, the electric car will become completely “digital”. The owner will be able to control almost all Atom functions from a smartphone, and, say, car sharing operators will be able to remotely change car settings (for example, limit speed) without installing additional equipment.
Expand the functions of the car to allow its own Atomverse application store: by analogy with smartphones, third-party developers will be able to create certain functions or scenarios for the car.
Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting against car hacking: a security gateway based on the KasperskyOS operating system will allow you to monitor the “purity” of downloaded applications, update software and monitor events.
When will it be on sale?
Atom will be on sale by the summer of 2025. The cars will be assembled in Russia, but where exactly will become known only in mid-2023. So far, only the process of designing the equipment of the enterprise has started.
The price of the electric car is yet to be announced. Here is how the company itself comments on this: “We are developing a technologically advanced mass electric car for the city. An electric car that meets the needs of the current generation and offers a completely new experience of interaction between a person and an electric car. And it is important for us to be, on the one hand, accessible to our audience, on the other hand, to offer a high level of modern comfort and safety. This determines the future price of the Atom – a fairly mass availability with high innovation.”
The Atom electric car is indeed the most interesting and ambitious Russian automotive project in recent times. And it will be extremely exciting to follow its development. /m