The Problem With EV And Hybrid Tuning

Steve Dinan really wants to tune the BMW i8. He and his team sat down to hatch a plan, but it was scrapped in short order. By turning up the electric wick on BMW's hybrid super coupe, the life of the battery would be decimated. And that's a problem when the 7.1 kWh pack costs upwards of $10,000.

Putting warranty issues aside for the moment, boosting the performance of everything from the i8 to the Nissan Leaf is wrought with challenges.

There's the not-so-small matter of hacking the controllers to boost the amount of juice the batteries will send to the electric motor. Then you've got to rework the potentiometer that's controlled by the throttle. And of course you have to ensure that the now over-stressed battery pack keeps cool with the new load.

All that adds up to a massive headache, but that's dwarfed by the migraine-inducing problem of the battery itself.

Even if you're willing to drop more than 100-large on a high performance EV or hybrid, there's an undefined pain point of what's acceptable to replace. Tires? Sure. Brakes? No doubt? A five-figure battery? That's a tough sell.

And it's something Dinan and Co. are trying to figure out. If you amp up the output of the pack and it only lasts 50,000 miles, is that worth it? More importantly, California requires all partial zero-emissions vehicles (PZEV) to carry a 10-year/150,000-mile warranty on the traction battery pack. Dinan likes to keep warranties intact, so compromising that is basically a non-starter.

Granted, most tuners aren't worried about killing a warranty in the pursuit of performance. But the overall cost to the customer won't be the initial outlay for parts and labor, but the replacement of expensive components like the battery further down the line. That makes Saleen's plan to tune the Model S even more questionable.

As for Dinan, they're still thinking about slapping a larger turbocharged mill into the back of the i8, because of course they are.