Magna’s Plug-and-Play Electric Vehicle

Magna Steyr, the European arm of auto supplier Magna International, unveiled its Mila EV (electric vehicle) concept car this week at the Geneva International Motor Show. The company is not planning to put the Mila EV directly on the market—instead, it hopes that global automakers will use the ground-up design as a head start for brand new electric cars. Think of it as a plug-and-play EV for carmakers.

“At the moment, the main problem of electric vehicles is that the components and the production are very expensive,” said Harald Reichmann, Magna Steyr’s manager of corporate communications, in an interview with “The great benefit of our concept is the novel platform that guarantees a common utilization by a variety of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and/or for different drive versions. This means higher production runs and thus lower costs.”

Ford was the first company to announce a partnership with Magna to produce an electric vehicle—although the Mila EV was not the basis for Ford’s project. Nonetheless, the yet-to-be-named Ford model will be about the same size as the Mila EV. Ford said it will retain responsibility for everything except the electric drivetrain—while Magna will contribute the electric motor and transmission, its battery pack and charger, motor controller, and related systems, and will help integrate the whole package. Ford is also teaming up with UK’s Smith Electric Vehicles to produce an electric commercial van.

Ford has been using the Focus platform as a mule for testing its small electric car. In Geneva, Ford unveiled the iosis Max concept—a multi-purpose vehicle platform—that has dimensions similar to the Mila EV (and could be a platform for its electric car).

Ford iosis Max concept

Ford’s iosis Max concept.

Magna’s front-drive Mila EV will use the company’s own lithium ion battery pack to power a 67-horsepower electric motor. The lithium batteries begin production next year. The Mila’s 98-inch wheelbase is about four inches shorter than a Ford Focus, while its 157-inch overall length is significantly shorter.

The shorter body will help reduce the weight of the vehicle to reduce the load on the electric motor. The Mila EV claims a range of about 100 miles, with a charging time of 2.5 hours (at 400V).

In its pitch at the auto show, Magna Steyr indicated it has permission from Ford to sell the components to other manufacturers and is actively seeking partnerships to increase volume and drive down costs.

While Magna Steyr hopes that carmakers will be interested in the Mila EV design, the company expects that each carmaker will modify the vehicle’s appearance to suit its own goals. “The big advantage of our concept is that our platform offers full flexibility and adaptability to their strategies, needs and designs,” said Reichman.

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  • dan k

    I love the business plan. maybe this will get the ev segment moving.

  • domboy

    “while Magna will contribute the electric motor and transmission…”
    Wait a second here. Why does it need a transmission??? Forum members here have said may times that electric cars won’t need transmissions… so who is right??

  • 38mpg

    EVs do not need a transmission with capability to change gear ratios. But they need gears to connect the electric motor to the wheels, unless the motor is directly integrated in the wheel.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    My associate, that converts older cars to all electric vehicles and has a Prius, has indicated that even a Prius on all electric power cannot go much faster than 53 mph. It would take a transmission, and probably flat or down hill conditions, for a Prius to get into the 60+ mph speed on all electric. The Prius gets to the 60+ mph (up to 130 mph) now by kicking in the gas engine and thereby bypassing the need for a transmission. Remember, the Prius is a power split hybrid and does not have a true transmission as found in other cars.

  • Anonymous

    Tesla has a transmission (which has been part of their technical problems) as do all of the NEVs out there. Ford’s new BEV Transit Connect has a transmission. Transmissions are needed to step down the power and apply it to the drive wheels.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    You’re confused. The Tesla Roadster does not have a transmission. They originally tried to develop a 2-speed transmission, then realized that transmissions have trouble handling the torque from an electric motor so.
    Instead, they went with a fixed reduction gear and a motor and Power Electronics Module that can output more torque directly.

    Lost Prius to Wife,
    You are correct about the Prius but not all electric cars. Electric cars can easily go very fast. My EV1 would easily go 80 mph (they electronically governed it at 80) and the Tesla supposedly goes 125 mph before they govern it although I don’t know of anyone actually going that fast in a Tesla yet.

    Personally, I’m getting tired of all these electric concepts. We need cars, not sculptures. The Tesla beats any of these things and it is real.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    ex-EV1 driver, you are correct. Given enough battery power and a large enough electric motor or motors, electric cars are capable of matching gas cars and surpassing gas cars in torque since the torque is almost instantaneous. Again, you are right that most of these cars carry the title “concept” at this time. Hopefully, because of companies and business plans like the above mention companies, we will be receiving real electric cars, not just concept cars, than we can all own and would even want to own.

  • Sam Roy

    I don’t understand why these car makers are spending so much time and resources making these concept cars and not the real thing. They are all planning to produce these cars many years down the road but we need these cars now. The demand might actually go down over time particularly if Arabs manage to lower the gas price.

  • Sam Roy

    I don’t understand why these car makers are spending so much time and resources making these concept cars and not the real thing. They are all planning to produce these cars many years down the road but we need these cars now. The demand might actually go down over time particularly if Arabs manage to lower the gas price.

  • Robert Dela

    They also need to look at what others are doing. As I pointed out in another article on the electric cars, the Chinese already have a car out that beats the volt in every catagory except the troublesome safety which we don’t have data on. Even that will be corrected to meet our standards, and this car is being sold now… not to mention it’s selling at $20,000 which is far below what the volt will sell for and by the time volt is out this will be in it’s third iteration. We need to step up or they will wind up crushing us with these cheap cars made with competent yet cheap labor and superior batteries.

  • Dave07

    The problem with Magna is they do not return phone calls and treat their paying customers like second class citizens. Our company tried working with them and it was a horrific 3 month experience and we pulled out and went a different direction with much better results. Magna is to big and they trip over their own egos. If it were not for Magna employees patting each other on the back their backs would be lonely.

  • Nick

    What will happen when Magna buys Opal & Vauxall tomorrow? Can we look forward to an Opal EV any time soon. Will anyone get it outside of Europe/Asia? How will Ford feel about partnering with Magna after they become a competitor?